It’s a comic, not a graphic novel: Babel’s Marjane Satrapi

I’ve finally come to the realization that the people who go to events such as Babel and another artsy affairs generally lean to the left. When tonight’s speaker, the Iranian author/artist Marjane Satrapi, relayed that this was the point where she would usually spend ten minutes bashing Bush, the crowd burst into uproarious laughter and unanimous applause. Well unanimous minus one, although I did laugh … it was funny. However, I think I was just the person Satrapi was hoping to reach when she wrote down her life’s experiences in a tyrannical regime at home while trying to become a free European abroad. She talked about how the world shouldn’t contain culture clashes, but instead realize that there is only one culture and it belongs to everyone. Rather than harp on differences we should be adding to our own point of view to eventually all come to one that’s held universally. Lofty ambitions for sure, even more so coming from someone who grew up in a world where showing a strand of hair could put you in jail for public indecency.

Satrapi was possibly my favorite speaker yet to come through Asbury Hall, (sadly also the last, but more on that later). Her mixture of sarcasm, intellectual outlook, and life experience led to an enlightening speech about her work, life, and beliefs. Being that Persepolis is a graphic novel—scratch that, she hates the term, it’s a comic—to have her read excerpts would be futile. Thankfully she realizes the visual nature of her work and decided to just explain her reasoning and process behind the novel and film, as well as the nightmare animation can be. Her main impetus to write the story was to have the world ask itself what the value of life is. We as people need evil to have a face, a name, and an address. Once we can label that which harms us, we can then go after it and destroy every last bit. Satrapi sees this fact as the beginning germination of Fascism and the worst thing anyone can do. The first act of violence might actually be thought of as right in the minds of the doers. However, once someone realizes its wrong and then does the same thing back as revenge, well he/she is even worse than the oppressor. What is the value of a life? Is that of a Middle Eastern less than of a westerner? These are the questions she hoped to plant in our minds, giving Iranians a face, much like our own, rather than the label we are taught. She believes we all must be humanists first and foremost because the only division that exists is between the fanatics and everyone else. It’s just that the small faction of fanatics are so crazy, they become all we see and talk about.

A self-proclaimed cartoonist, Marjane Satrapi brought a little international flavor with her. Whereas most of the authors to visit previously have become US citizens, she has not. Coming to America for the first time in 1998 she was given a longer visa than her Swedish husband because “she was cuter”. Her return, years later, was met with a brief detention to be grilled about WMDs, the lax customs agents now beginning their current profiling. Through is all though, Satrapi found that what she heard about America and what she thought was a land full of mean people was in fact a country of freedom and hope. Her love even extended to the point where she defended it to the French during the “freedom fries” fiasco. An educated women—one who sees a person without laughter as stupid—Satrapi converted everyone in the room into someone with hope for the future with her belief in “education and culture being the weapons of mass construction”. Before taking her cigarette break at the end of her discourse, (an hour and a half of talking needs a nicotine fix), she relayed that the next election should allow the world to vote. Until China takes over as world power numero uno in 25-30 years, she says, the President of the United States will be the President of the world, so she wants a say in who wins, promising that if the world had a voice, we may never have another republican elected again. Yes, that was met with a wave of applause too.

• The April 17th entry with Isabel Allende will now be held at Kleinhans Music Hall to allow for more seating. Therefore, a new batch of tickets are available for purchase.
• The 09-10 season will see an increase in price, but, if you order your tickets before the 17th, you will be locked into this years prices as an early bird special.
• The 09-10 season will include: A.S. Byatt and her Possession on 10/9/09; Ha Jin and his Waiting on 11/20/09; Azar Nafisi and her Reading Lolita in Tehran on 3/5/10; and Salman Rushdie with his Midnight’s Children on 4/16/10. All readings to be held at Kleinhans Music Hall. So, buy your books and tickets today.

Courtesy of Bruce Jackson.

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