Born in 1969 at Rasht, Iran, near the Caspian coast, the graphic novelist and children's author Marjane Satrapi grew up in Tehran during the fall of the Shah, the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the start of the Iran-Iraq war. Her graphic memoirs Persepolis and Persepolis 2 recount these experiences and her departure for Europe as an adolescent. Now working on an animated film adaptation of Persepolis, Satrapi lives in Paris.
At this weekend's Wisconsin Book Festival, She appears twice on Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Wisconsin Union Theater -- first at 3 p.m., in a conversation with graphic novelist Chris Ware to be broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To the Best of Our Knowledge," and again at 7 p.m., when she will read from and discuss Chicken with Plums, which tells the story of her great-uncle, an acclaimed musician who sacrificed his life for music and love.
The Daily Page: How does Chicken with Plums relate to Persepolis and its sequels?Satrapi: It is about the same family.
Why did you choose the graphic novel form to convey your autobiographical narratives?
Because I don't know how to dance.
What was your reaction when critics compared Persepolis to Art Spiegelman's masterpiece, Maus?
I was very, very honored. I think Maus is a fantastic book -- it was really a revelation for me. But, I think it must be very boring for Art Spiegelman for every new graphic memoir to be compared to his book.
In an interview a few years ago, you said that the real war is not between the West and the East but between intelligent and stupid people; that George Bush had more in common with Iranian fanatics than you yourself had in common with Iranian fanatics; and that you felt closer affinity to an American who thinks like you than to "the bearded guy of my country" -- clearly distinguishing between our government, which you characterized as "just shit" and the American people's "enthusiastic, candid way of being American," which you indicated you "really, really love." What candid advice do you have for enthusiastic U.S. citizens as they go to the polls next month to vote in mid-term elections?
Be honest and vote with your mind and your heart.
What single frame or page has given you the greatest satisfaction to complete, and how did it serve the greater story?
The page featuring Sophia Loren. It gave me the biggest satisfaction to draw the most gorgeous woman. If you read the book, you'll see its significance to the story.
Which cigarettes do you favor?
Your new book, Chicken with Plums, centers around your great-uncle. What accounts for your tendency to draw inspiration from your family?
That is all I know.
From whom in your family did you inherit your sense of justice and responsibility? And your sense of humor?
As a graphic novelist who is courageous enough to publish such memoirs as Persepolis, what three things do you most fear?
I only fear fear itself. Fear leads you to stop thinking, and that is the beginning of the end.
You've noted that you compose your works in French, but do you think in French, or in Persian?
What is it about Iggy Pop's music that appeals to you?
What I love about Iggy Pop is that he is very romantic and very angry at the same time.
How, when and where did you first meet Chris Ware?
I met his book first. I'm a huge, huge fan. I really admire him and his work. Then in Haarlem, Holland, a couple years ago I met him in person. And I was surprised that he knew of my work. He asked me to sign a copy of one of my books. I was too shy to ask him to sign one for me...
Do you have any tattoos?