4 November 2010 “The sun doesn’t shine the same way everywhere” – an unforgettable meeting with Marjane Satrapi

The long awaited meeting with Marjane Satrapi – the author of the famous comics and animated film Persepolis – gathered loyal fans of her works, who already 20 minutes before the appearance of the guest filled up the MCK hall on the Main Market. Despite her engagement in works on a new production based on her comics Chicken with plums, the author was able to come to Krakow and reveal some unusual stories and enchant the festival's public.

The first question of the host of the meeting, Grzegorz Jankowicz, concerned the genesis of the need of story-telling through comics. Was it the absence or presence of someone that became enzyme of comics stories? Satrapi – with adequate zest and humour – after greeting the public replied: “Everyone was there and nobody was there.” She emphasised at the beginning, that she often asks herself such a question, because we want to know where the truth lies and how the text refers to reality. “In Persepolis”, she continued, “I told a story taken from my own life, but not entirely...” As she disclosed, for the needs of the narration, she changed many elements: “What’s the significance to reality whether somebody is 14 or 18 years old. When someone, who is a friend, dies – the truth of emotions remains the same. There is never an objective point of view [...] I write comics stories, because I like to draw and write. I can’t chose between one and the other.”

In Satrapi’s opinion, comics is an art dedicated “for children and adults behind in development”. “Drawing is more representative for truth – more than photography. The latter is a truth we see. Drawing has also the subjectivity of the person, who creates it.” Drawing allowed – which she emphasises during the meeting – to maintain the sense of humour adequate to it. “It was about showing the history of Iran in a way that that it hasn’t been told yet.” Persepolis was to deny the falsified picture of the Near East, which we know from the media, through humour and distance. The author of Wyszywanki did not hide that the author of Maus, Art Spiegel, had a great impact on her artistic sensitivity, whom she met right after coming to France and whose work inspired her in her later work. “Even those, who I don’t like, inspired me” she emphasised.

The Iranian-French artist of graphic stories charmed the Krakow public with an anecdote from her childhood on the subject of consequence, which the book History of western philosophy by Bertrand Russell made an impact on her. – “A week after I had read this, I broke my neighbour's window. Father asked: “Why did you do it?” “Because I’m like a river, never the same.” In telling about the experience of life in a totalitarian country, she reminded that Poland is a country in which its comprehension is definitely easier. “I defend freedom today, but when I was 19 years old, in order not to get caught by the guards of revolution, I gave away someone who was harassing me. Fear paralysed me. I’m imperfect. It needs to be talked about. That’s what makes a human being a true living thing. Fear makes us cowards. If I want to criticise the system – first I must begin with myself. In a moment, with a smile on her face, she added: “I prefer myself than Britney Spears, who went crazy at the age of 26.”
At the question of the presence of her work in Iran in relation to the success of the comics and film Persepolis she replied: – “In the 80s I bought Pink Floyd albums on the black market. After years I saw myself on the black market. Yes, I belong to the black market in Iran” she commented.
At the question of how she feel most – an Iranian or European? She replied: – “For me, culture is a global chain of elements connected with one another. There is no border here [...] I have room in me for both these cultures. Emotionality, hospitability is very Iranian in me. There are also clearly French sides. However, everything functions mutually. How to define myself? For me Iran is my mother, France – my wife. I love my mother, although she can be crazy, I’ll do anything for her. France I can betray, because I chose it myself. They are different relations. Believe me, the sun doesn’t shine the same way everywhere. The colour of the sky is not identical everywhere. The leaves don’t smell the same everywhere. I come from a specific place and time, which will always belong to me.” This part of the statement of the author of Persepolis, nominated for an Oscar, the festival's public award with a great applause.

Jankowicz also asked about the incessant need of story-telling and the creation of the grandmother, who returns to the pages of her comics: “Older people always fascinated me. As a child I loved to spend time with them. They would constantly tell me stories. My grandmother was a very free person, one who hated moralising. She believed that moralising is given by responsibility not by the law. Gran didn’t have any middle-class courtesy in her, she always said what she was thinking. I was lucky to have been raised by her.”

Asked about her work on her most recent production based on Chicken with plums, she disclosed: “Work was very long and arduous. Finally, money was found for realisation. I’m very happy that now the editing is in progress. There were a few explosions, but when she was a pyromaniac as a child. I like explosions.”

The meeting with Marjane Satrapi will surely be remembered for a long time by the loyal readers of her comics stories. Now we are impatiently waiting for the premiere of Chicken with plums and for another meeting with Marjane Satrapi in Krakow. Hopefully, as soon as possible!