Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Spurious by Lars Iyer (2.5/5)

First published: 2011
Page count: 188


The back says: Two yammering intellectuals ponder life and fungus in a hilarious British comedy.
In a raucous debut, writer and philosopher Lars Iyer tells the story of a writer very lie himself, his “slightly more successful” friend, and their journey in search of answers to the big questions, such as “Is this the End of Times?” and “Where do they serve better gin?”

Another reason for their journeys: the narrator’s home is slowly being taken over by a fungus that no one seems to know how to stop. Before it completely swallows his house, he feels more compelled than ever to solve his philosophical puzzles... before it is too late. Or, he has to move.
I say: I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about this until I read that it was supposed to be a comedy.

I didn’t laugh once.
Or even smile.

There was nothing amusing about this novel at all. In fact, I found it rather dreary and disturbing. The way that W. is constantly undermining and verbally abusing Lars is mind-numbing.


“’If you are working class, like us’, says W., ‘you show your affection by verbal abuse. That’s why I abuse you – verbally, I mean. It’s a sign of love’. – p 116

If it weren’t for the ceaseless cruelty I would have found this a lot more appealing, as the characters do what a friend and I tend to do; talk about nothing and everything. W. claims that literature has destroyed them, is obsessed with Franz Kafka and Max Brod, and he keeps referring back to the authors' brilliance and his friendship with Brod. In his mind, you are either Kafka or Brod.

And neither of them are Kafka.
W. shamelessly blames Lars for ruining and dragging him down and it becomes clearer as the story progresses that the latter is nothing but an excuse and a whipping boy for the former. Why Lars puts up with it, is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, Lars is slowly losing his apartment to damp and fungus, and instead of moving out, he tries everything to try to get rid of it as his health declines.

This could have been such an existential masterpiece since the two characters raise a lot of interesting philosophical questions, but unfortunately the brilliance gets lost in the white noise of verbal abuse. Not to mention the relentless “W. says” all over the page. It was repetitive, redundant and ruined the flow of the prose. I know nothing of Iyer, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he was influenced by Samuel Beckett.
Apparently this is part one of a trilogy that I won’t be finishing.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Totally Joe (4/5) & Addie on the Inside (3/5) by James Howe

Almost two years ago I read The Misfits by James Howe and instantly fell in love with all the characters. Since then I’ve been meaning to read the two additional books in the series, but kind of forgot until I stumbled upon them in a sale and decided that this was the only way to go.


First published: 2005
Page count: 189
The back says: "Everybody says you and Colin were kissing."
"What? That's ridiculous!"
"For heaven's sake, Joe, if you and Colin want to kiss, you have every right to."
"We did not kiss," I told her.
Addie shrugged. "Whatever."

What was it with my friends?

I say: This novel is presented as a school assignment called an “alphabiography” where Joe is to write about himself from A-Z (which I think is a great idea and wonder why my teachers never gave us assignments like that in school). He starts off by telling the teacher, Mr. Daly, that he hopes he won’t have to disclose whatever is written inside since it could easily be used as ammunition against him.
As if his peers needed any more.

We learn in The Misfits that Joe is gay, but although he has known it himself for a long time (and everyone else has guessed as much from his effeminate and flamboyant manner; which is a stereotype I’ll deal with later), he has never officially come out of the closet. He starts to sort of date Colin, who is a jock and not ready to have anyone know that he’s gay, which causes some friction between the two.
Even though the novel isn’t merely about homosexuality, it does play a huge part since Joe is only 12 and still trying to figure everything out. We learn gradually that Joe has always played with dolls and worn girls’ clothes from an early age; he also loves Cher and talks with his hands. He is the stereotypical gay kid, which is fine because there are people who truly are like that, but what made me like him is that there is more to him than just being squeezed into that stereotype.

There are a lot of identity issues, bullying, tests of friendship in this, but it is told with heaps of humour, which help alleviate the some of the seriousness. I really like Joe (who reminds me of a family member) and I would actually love to read about how he turns out as an adult.

First published: 2011
Page count: 206
The back says: Outspoken thirteen-year-old Addie Carle learns about love, loss, and staying true to herself as she navigates seventh grade, enjoys a visit from her grandmother, fights with her boyfriend, and endures gossip and meanness from her former best friend.
I say: Addie’s part of the story is a series of poems that she writes about what’s going on in her life; as the aptly named title reveals. It was a quick read that found me really amazed at how many of the feelings and issues Addie had were the same as my own when I was 12 and 13. Although I was never as politically involved as Addie (apart from when it was something that I felt strongly about), I was known as a knot-it-all and was constantly being told to shut up.

Which I never did.
And still don’t.

The poems range from childish rhymes about life in school to rather deep and poignant fragments about identity, loss, friendship and not fitting in. Having read The Misfits and Totally Joe prior to this it was interesting to see how different Addie truly was from the way her friends perceived her. It was also refreshing to read about how frustrating it is to try to make your voice heard to people who don’t care about anything other than their immediate social circle, and conversely to see how Addie realises that sometimes silence can be louder than any speech.
How cliché, I know, but Howes makes it work.

All in all, it was a good book that I will give to my niece to read since the issues it deals with aren’t exclusive to early teens.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Re-Reads for Uni

It’s been a few months since I re-read these for uni, but since I was extremely tired of dissecting them at the time, I haven’t written new reviews. So, for the sake of wrapping up loose ends, here are three mini-reviews of them.

The Trial by Franz Kafka (4.5/5)


First published: 1925 (but written in 1914/15)
Original title:
Der Process, later as Der Prozess, Der Proceß and Der Prozeß

Original language: German
Translation to English by: David Wyllie
Page count: 192


I have little to add to my previous review other than that I found and kept peeling away at more layers of the story on the second read. This was, of course, enhanced by the discussions we had and I found it very intriguing to hear what other people thought of K. and the trial. This is an absurdist’s dream; not having any idea what is going on and never being told.
And jokes.

The main difference between this re-read and my first encounter with The Trial is that I found the ending a lot more intriguing this time. Before I wrote that I found the end poetic, and that’s still true, but it also sort of broke my heart in that why-couldn’t-you-just-have-listened type of way.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (5/5)
First published: 1925
Page count: 288


I loved this a thousand times more the second time I read it because I understood it, and Woolf’s process of writing, a lot better. It would be impractical for me to start a discussion about Woolf’s technique, but I am fascinated by, and in awe of it and I really must read more of her works. I’ve come to realise that some people have problems with the prose, but I love its fluid and seamless nature.
Because I already knew the story and the way it was told, it was easier for me to focus on symbolism and character portrayal (also because I had an exam on it). The emotions were more intense, especially those of Septimus, and where I previously described them as subtle, they now seemed to leap off the page. Instead of focusing on why Woolf was showing us select pieces of the character’s lives, I now focused on what she was leaving out and why.


Moscow 2042 by Vladimir Voinovich (5/5)

First published: 1986
Original title:
Москва 2042

Original language: Russian
Translation to English by:
Richard Lourie
Page count: 444
I wrote an essay entitled Future or Fantasy: Metafictional Narrative in Moscow 2042 where I discussed how Voinovich made use of metafictional devices to make the reader question whether what Kartsev describes is a depiction of the future or his imagination. Surprisingly, I fell in more literary love with Voinovich after this essay, since it gave me the chance to research how absolutely brilliantly crafted this novel is. My defence of the essay didn’t go as well as I though because the opponent didn’t seem to grasp the difference between the novel written by Voinovich and the novel within the novel written by the protagonist Kartsev.

Metafiction: my poison of choice.

Perhaps I did a bad job of differentiating between the two; it became very Inception-y since I was discussing Voinovich’s use of Kartsev as a pawn.
See, I’m still able to spend hours discussing this!

The bottom line is that this was better the second time around since I spent less time trying to figure everything out and focused more on the way the novel was constructed. I found so many ridiculously ingenious plot devices and props to confuse the reader, and what I previously thought of as silly now made so much more sense.
This is satire at its finest.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Friday Funs: André Aciman Ed.

I went searching for André Aciman on facebook, found him and sent a friend request. Two hours later he accepted me.

I am in heaven (well, I would be if I still believed in religion).

And also slightly intoxicated from sophomorically mixing rosé and Sylvia Plath poetry.
I have about a jillion things I’d like to say and ask him, and as of now I am timing myself to see how long it’ll take before I fan-girl all over his wall. I mean, every other author of a book that so significantly affected my life is dead. And I won’t wait to go lie down on a statue of Aciman in America like I did with Oscar Wilde in Dublin (if I ever get in to my old puter that is holding all my pictures hostage while insisting on being broken, I'll post them).

Also, why shouldn't I fan-girl. After all,
I named my blog after a quote from his book!

 
I’m so re-reading it tomorrow.

Harvard Square by André Aciman (4.5/5)

First published: 2013
Page count: 292


The back says: It’s the fall of 1977, and amid the lovely, leafy streets of Cambridge a young Harvard graduate student, a Jew from Egypt, longs more than anything to become an assimilated American and a professor of literature. He spends his days in a pleasant blur of seventeenth-century fiction, but when he meets a brash, charismatic Arab cab driver in a Harvard Square café, everything changes.
Nicknamed Kalashnikov – Kalaj for short – for his machine-gun vitriol, the cab driver roars into the student’s life with his denunciations of the American obsession with “all things jumbo and ersatz” – Twinkies, monster television sets, all-you-can-eat buffets – and his outrageous declarations on love and the art of seduction. The student finds it hard to resist his new friend’s magnetism, and before long he begins to neglect his studies and live a double life: one in the rarefied world of Harvard, the other as an exile with Kalaj on the streets of Cambridge. Together they carouse the bars and cafés around Harvard Square, trade intimate accounts of their love affairs, argue about the American dream, and skinny-dip in Walden Pond. But as final exams loom and Kalaj has his licence revoked and is threatened with deportation, the student faces the decision of his life: whether to cling to his dream of New World assimilation or risk it all to defend his Old World friend.

I say: I love Aciman; the author of my favourite novel, Call Me By Your Name (from whence my blog name comes) and prominent Marcel Proust scholar whose prose is so achingly beautiful it hurts at times.

Gush.
This is Aciman’s third novel, and I was a tad apprehensive about reading it since his sophomore release, Eight WhiteNights, left me a little disappointed. Although I know that nothing will ever compare to Call Me By Your Name, I was so pleasantly surprised by Harvard Square and savoured every minute of it, never really wanting it to end. It is noticeable that Aciman has studied Proust because the prose is similar with the long run-on sentences, the beautiful descriptions of every minute detail and the acute emotions of the protagonists.

I realise that this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it.
The novel starts off with a rather unoriginal prologue (that I could have done without) of a father walking along Harvard campus with his son and starts reminiscing about his old uni days. We are then taken back to 1977 and the synopsis above, and I fell in such love with the Harvard Square that Aciman describes that I want to transport myself there for the rest of my life. The little café where he first meets Kalaj and is intrigued by his way of talking and strikes up a conversation due to his ache to speak French; the discussions they have about everything from politics to women to Americans to their native countries; and all the characters make for a sumptuous read. Not to mention the war of words Kalaj has with everyone; hilarious insults and petty grievances.

It’s all so vividly portrayed it felt like I could just reach out and touch it.
I am inclined to regard this novel a semi-biographical work since the nameless protagonist shares a lot of similarities with Aciman. I could, of course, be wrong about this – and it doesn’t really matter – but as a person who generally doesn’t want to know anything about authors I love for fear of finding out something about them that I don’t like, I am now more intrigued by Aciman than ever.

Before turning this into an incoherent essay I must point out that one of the main reasons this hits so close to home is the issue of identity that the men deal with; wanting to hold on to their heritage, but at the same time wanting to be a part of America. Kalaj offers the point of view of someone who is standing outside of American culture, while the student is standing with one foot on either side and unsure of where to turn.

Like an actor who wants to sit alone in his booth after all the lights are out and everyone’s gone home, I wanted to take my time removing the makeup, the wig, the false teeth, the skin glow, the eyelashes, take time to recover myself and see the face, not the mask, not the mask again, always the mask again. I wanted to talk to myself in French, in my own French accent, speak as those who brought me into this world had taught me to speak. – p 247

I get goose bumps.

So yeah, 4.5/5 because of the unoriginal start and a few things within the text that I didn’t particularly care for, but I am really in the mood for a re-read right now.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Third Son by Julie Wu (4/5)

First published: 2013
Page count: 310


The back says: In the middle of a terrifying air raid in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Saburo, the least-favored son of a Taiwanese politician, runs through a peach forest for cover. It’s there that he stumbles upon Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.
Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history – as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another – and the fast-changing American West of the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Third Son is a richly textured story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself of both.
I say: I picked this up from the library because of the cover, the title, the first paragraph of the synopsis and because I rarely read novels set in Asia. When I stumble upon novels of authors I’ve never read or heard of I tend to read the first sentence to suss out what type of prose it is. The Third Son starts:

"My journey began when the Americans bombed us, in 1943, because it was during the bombings that I met the girl."

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Wu’s prose is seamless and beautiful, at times slightly magical. I was drawn into the story straight away and reluctantly put it down when I had to go to bed – and then promptly finished it the next day. I fell in a sort of love with Saburo while pitying him and waiting – hoping - for him to break free of his family’s clutches and abuse. It’s been a while since characters enraged me as much as Saburo’s family did, and though I do love an underdog story, what separates this from the other run of the mill stories, is the cultural aspects of Saburo’s submission. It was outrageous how the firstborn, Kazou, was treated like a prince and Saburo like dirt. But, as with all underdog stories, Saburo gets his retribution.
Of sorts.

Without giving anything away I will say that the second part of the novel wasn’t as good as the first. The glorification of America and corruptness of Taiwan, China and Japan may very well be a reality, but it turned into such a regretful cliché.
Having little knowledge of Taiwan – its people ad history – Wu turns it into an illuminating backdrop to Saburo’s life without either overpowering the other. There were political conversations sprinkled in here and there, but they never felt contrived or preachy – in fact, I rather enjoyed them, since Saburo’s father acted as a reasonable man (in politics, hardly with regards to his family) and it was interesting how his opinions and actions progressed when Taiwan moved from being ruled by the Japanese to being ruled by the Chinese.

I’m ashamed of my ignorance of the Taiwanese people’s oppression, and grateful for the short history lesson.
So, 4/5 because it is a beautiful and emotional story about how much one can sacrifice and endure for family and for love.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Idanre and Other Poems by Wole Soyinka (3/5)

First published: 1967
Page count: 88


The back says: This collection of poems, the first by Wole Soyinka to be published, originally appeared in 1967. The long poem, Idanre, was written especially for the Commonwealth Arts Festival (1965) and is a creation myth of Ogun, the Yoruba god of Iron. The shorter poems range from a meditation on the news of the October Massacres in Northern Nigeria (1966) to a wry lament To My First White Hairs and the love poem Psalm.

I say: I can’t remember where I heard of Soyinka, but this was the only work of his they had at the library in English, so I thought I’d give it a try.

And I’m not sure what I think.
Some of his poems were really thought-provoking and beautiful, while others made me weary from his extremely posh language. It’s been a long time since I had to look up so many words while reading – and poetry, nonetheless. Make no mistake, I love words more than anything a lot of things, but his poetry made me feel a bit stupid.

I do think a lot of it went over my head, and I will read through it again because of masterpieces like this:
Post Mortem

there are more functions to a freezing plant
than stocking beer; cold biers of mortuaries
submit their dues, harnessed – glory be ! –
is the cold hand of death...
his mouth was cotton filled, his man-pike
shrunk to sub-soil grub


his head was hollowed and his brain
on scales – was this a trick to prove
fore-knowledge after death?
his flesh confessed what has stilled
his tongue; masked fingers think from him
to learn, how not to die.


let us love all things of grey; grey slabs
grey scalpel, one grey sleep and form,
grey images.

It’s the penultimate stanza that my morbid self fell in love with.
Beauty.

The title poem Idandre left me rather cold and unaffected, which is a shame because it has a lot of beautiful lines in it. However, it’s written in so many different styles that I lost my patience and simply wanted Soyinka to find one and stick to it. Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, and it’s no surprise with lines like this one, from A Cry in the Night:
[...] heaven may not contest
Scars, shower ancient scales
To prove her torment shared.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Abandoned: Satans Dostojevkskij / A Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq Rahimi

First published: 2012
Original title:
Maudit Soit Dostoïevski

Original language: French
Translation to Swedish by: Kristina Ekelund
Page count:
237

Bokus says: For every crime, there must be a punishment. Rassoul's world consists of little more than a squalid rented room - strewn with books by Dostoevsky, relics from his days as a student of Russian Literature at Leningrad - and his beloved fiancee Sophia, for whom he would do anything. So when he finds himself committing a murder, axe in hand, as if re-enacting the opening of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, his identification with the novel's anti-hero is complete: Rassoul is Raskolnikov, transplanted to late twentieth-century Kabul. Amid the war-torn streets, Rassoul searches for the meaning of his crime. Instead he is pulled into a feverish plot thick with murder, guilt, morality and Sharia law, where the lines between fact and fiction, dream and reality, become dangerously blurred. Blackly comic, with flashes of poetry as well as brilliant irony, Atiq Rahimi's latest novel is an ingenious recasting of Dostoevsky's masterpiece and a transgressive satire with a frightening resonance all its own.
I say: I read this in Swedish – or I tried to – but I’m writing this in English because the English translation will be out next month (and I may try it again).

I have issues with reading certain translations in Swedish because I find certain types of prose more beautiful in English. However, I was too excited about this after reading a review on a Swedish book blog that I couldn’t wait for the English translation.
My mistake.

I got as far as page 58 and found the story a boring and pale imitation of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The prose was gruellingly stiff and stilted, and I found it agonising and frustrating to read. I read The Patience Stone by Rahimi last year and enjoyed the prose, so I have no idea what happened here.
Either way, if I stumble upon the English translation in the future I may give it another go.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday Funs: Grammar Ed.

It’s been a week full of grammatical errors; both on my part (I cringe) and on various other sites and conversations. Hence, this week's Friday Funs is about grammar – beause yes, I think grammar is fun.

I studied a year of Communication in English at uni for crying out loud.

Although, some nights I still wake up screaming from a nightmare of having to write endless tree diagrams.
Comics courtesy of my loves over at Cyanide & Happiness.
 
 
HA! 

 
*dead*
(figuratively, of course)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Duck City av Lena Andersson (3.5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2006
Antal sidor: 224

Baksidan säger:
Duck city är belägrat av fetma. Regeringen bekämpar "den vita valen" med hjälp av kontroll och stränga bantningskliniker. Men suget efter fett, socker och salt är lönsamt, och magnaten John von Anderson djupfriterar glatt vidare i skydd av sin vänskap med DC:s president.

Kalle A, som själv väger över 200 kg, arbetar i en av matfabrikerna och är dessutom farbror von Anderssons levnadstecknare. Som sådan kommer han i kontakt både med John älskarinna Kajsa och dissidenten och litteraturprofessorn Harold Bell – två själar som också tyngs av den stora vita valen. De är alla tre problembarn i Operation Ahabs allseende ögon, och frågan är om de alls får plats i den hårdbantande presidentens lätta, nya värld.

Lena Anderssons Duck city är en stad som är på bristningsgränsen både fysiskt och psykiskt, en stad som är både obehagligt bekant och bedrägligt främmande.

Jag säger: Jag vet inte riktigt vad jag tycker om Duck City. Som satir fungerar den kanske sådär, men som litterärt verk i helhet är det lite mindre övertygande.

Innan jag säger något annat så måste jag bara påpeka hur härligt (om det är rätt ord) det var att Andersson tagit med en av mina favoritdikter Dödsfuga av Paul Celan. Jag hade velat ha lite mer av det, men eftersom Kalle inte förstod blev det inte så – fast det är ju däri härligheten ligger. Jämförelsen – hur förskräcklig den än må vara – gav historien ett djup som jag inte riktigt förväntade mig.

Jag läste någonstans att den här skulle vara rolig, men jag skrattade inte en enda gång. Ofta tycker jag att det absurda är komiskt, men i detta fall kändes det mer obehagligt; inte för att vi är på väg redan är i ett slags Duck City utan för att satiren inte riktigt fungerade som den skulle – just för att vi redan lever i ett Duck City.

Det fanns inte stort nog utrymmer för att budskapet skulle nå ända fram.
Visst finns det likheter mellan Duck City och Candide av Voltaire (som också nämns i boken), men där Voltaire har använt satir i förening med tokeri på hög nivå, känns det som att Andersson skulle tjänat på att ha lagt till mer utsvävningar.

Det kändes tamt.
Även karaktärerna gjorde lite för att lyfta verket, trots att både Johan von Andersson och Harold Bell skapade en bra dynamik. Tyvärr kändes både Kalle och Kajsa som schabloner och de tre brorsönerna ute i krig och mordmysteriet kunde jag ha klarat mig utan.

3.5/5 då boken var värd att läsa och tar upp ett intressant och aktuellt ämne, men det hade kunnat vara bättre.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (3/5)

First published: 1932
Page count: 233


The back says: When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, "Cold Comfort Farm" is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

I say: This was my third attempt at reading Cold Comfort Farm, previously having retired it after a mere 20 or so pages in. I was about to do the same this time around, but then decided to just work my way through it so that I could finally remove it from my 100 Classics Challenge.
I didn’t find this very funny at all. In fact, I chuckled twice and spent the rest of the time in a daze of sorts. It was all such unchallenging reading that I was constantly falling asleep from boredom and lack of interest. Except for when I was getting annoyed at the vernacular – my pet peeve.

I know that this is a parody, and as such Flora was the annoying busybody that thought she knew everything and was constantly looking down her nose at everyone. The Starkadders were a ragtag family of people who were too lazy to do anything right – until Flora shows up and sorts them all out. Nothing about any of the characters interested me, and I couldn’t be bothered to engage any emotional attachment to them.
Meh.

The reason this is getting a 3/5 is because it is a parody it works; all the necessary stereotypes are there, and it would be nice as a conversational piece, but that’s as far as it goes.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (3/5)

First published: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Original title:
Persepolis

Original language: French
Translation to Swedish by: Gabriella Theiler
Page count:
77, 86, 96, 100

GoodReads says: Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
I say: I read the Swedish translation in four parts – all in one go – and even though it’s been a couple of weeks since I finished them, Satrapi’s life is still at the back of my mind.

The things she’s been through...
It’s hard to sum up how I feel about the series because there is so much that happens and elicits different reactions and emotions. I had little knowledge of Iran’s history prior to reading this, and I loved that it started off with a couple of pages explaining who the previous rulers were and what happened when they discovered oil – it made for a smooth transition into Sartapi’s childhood with two politically engaged parents who persistently protested against what they thought was wrong. There was a lot of political talk, as is expected, and I liked the candour of it (biased as it must be), and it did prompt me to look further into Iran’s history.

But it wasn’t only about the political turmoil – thankfully – in fact, I see it more as a coming-of-age story than a political one. The political climate (and later war) was at the centre of Satrapi’s life but at the same time it operated in background. What was most poignant for me was her thoughts and life in Vienna; her personal growth and happiness at being in a free country and the guilt of not being at home and dealing with the problems.
There’s a lot of humour in here as well, which made for a more bearable reading, and it is a very straightforward and honest autobiography.