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Spatial Context

Walk among the places of Persepolis means walk among symbols who marked the life of the author, but also the lives of hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions people.
The basic places of the work are that of the war. The slow decline of Iran started from the Europe: European interventions on the politics of the country began as early as the eighteenth century, during the rule of the Turkish dynasty of Qagiar. At the beginning of the nineteenth century on the fault between the Arabian plaque and the African one, in correspondence with the Persian Gulf, has been found rich deposits of oil, so these interventions, especially from Britain, became more and more invasive. These conditions brought a series of dictatorship that Western powers used to keep under control the territory and the oil fields. They were drew on the enlightened dictatorships of the late Renaissance Europe, alternating between modernizing instances and ruthless repression: they forced the women to remove the veil, admitted them at the Universities and supported the modern lay schools but they didn’t grant them the right to vote and didn’t abolish male privileges in term of matrimonial and family law. The Persian Gulf oil not even guaranteed better live condition to people despite his price was continuously growing from 2,9 to 11,65 dollars per barrel (but also touching quota 17 dollars): the English company took most of the earnings and when Mohammed Mossadeq, prime minister of Iran, CIA took him down, bringing the Shah to power. This instability led, in January 1979, to the Islamic Revolution. Millions of people took to the streets to demand the fall of the Shah, who was forced into exile. A referendum gave birth to the Islamic Republic, with 98% of the votes. So the year after a ten year old girl, Marjane Satrapi, who lived in Teheran, passed from attending a French lay and mixed school to wear a veil in a class of only girls. And so she has been forced to downsize her expectations: she can not longer aspire to become a prophet.
Chronologically, the first place of the book is the school of the Sisters that Marjane frequented as a child. This is the place where she started to learn French, her second language that will allow her to leave the country, but it is also a mixed school, open minded, not even remotely bigoted as that which he attended after the revolution. This climate will profoundly influence the young Marjane, as she admits in the chapter The key (page 98), and probably all the generation that had time to live this climate before the revolution. This generation lived in the north side of Tehran, it belonged to an upper-class, open-minded and pro-Communist. The second symbol of the life before the revolution (and that remained an oasis also after it) is, for Marjane, the restaurant Kansas that offered hamburgers and American food and that, as she tells in the chapter The cigarette (page 112), was in Jordan Avenue, one of the streets that teenagers were use to frequent. The place that symbolizes the irremediable changing of her life is the Cinema Rex. In 1978 Islamic extremists burned it with around five hundred people inside. They were supported by the police, who didn’t let people let out from the cinema and didn’t let people outside from the cinema help them. The Rathaus (Vienna’s town hall) is instead her first memory of Vienna. She lived for a period in a nun’s college near the building where, she came in contact with Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and other philosophers that she could not study in Tehran (at least not without danger). Her return to Tehran is marked by the traumatic experience of can not orientate herself in the city anymore: streets had changed their names into the martyrs’ ones. Their appearance was completely different by both the ones she remembered in Vienna and in Tehran itself, with weird billboards touting war and martyrdom.

The last place is purely mental. It is located in ancient Persia, the kingdom founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BC. It borrows the name of a city that no longer exists: the ancient Persepolis, one of the five capitals of the Achaemenid Empire. It has been built by Darius the First and destroyed by Alexander the Great around 330 BC (probably to avenge the destruction of Athens by Xerxes). Today there are only ruins: a large complex of royal palaces, walls, arches, columns and especially engravings, sculptures and bas-reliefs. Works that suggest the wealth, culture, mastery and pleasure for the beauty that inspired this people. The bas-relief decorations show us scenes of celebration and ceremonies attended by the representatives of the nations: Medes, Parthians, Arabs but even Greeks and Romans have gone to pay homage to the great capital of the eastern empire. Here was born the Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion worshiping the creator god Ahura Mazda, "the Lord who creates with the thought". This religion just spoke of gender equality, charity and condemnation of all forms of violence towards both men and animals. The fire was the symbol of the creative force, without be an object of worship, and it burns until now in the Fire Temple in Yazd without stop for over two thousand years. In this place there are all the spiritual and cultural resources of the young Marjane, here is the silence necessary to meet God, to build an awareness, to develop her roots. A place that only the dear grandmother could fully understand.