This read was for the 2012 Around the World in 12 Books Reading Challenge hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days (July: Iran)
One note on the French edition...moreThis read was for the 2012 Around the World in 12 Books Reading Challenge hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days (July: Iran)
One note on the French edition though: the copyright page says that it was translated from the English translation produced by Ghasal Mosadecq. That being said, I've searched on line for an English translation of this amazing and enlightening graphic novel and couldn't find one so perhaps it was never actually published in English. If so, that's a real shame and I really do hope that an English language publisher is going to pick this up very soon.
Mana Neyestani's graphic novel is autobiographic. Neyestani was born in Tehran in 1973. He started his career as a cartoonist working in different cultural and political magazines. He soon became cataloged as a political cartoonist and had to turn to drawing for children in order not to draw to much unwanted attention from governmental authorities. He thought he was safe. He was unfortunately wrong.
In 2006, Neyestani drew a cockroach in one of his cartoons. The drawing was unfortunately taken out of its context and interpreted as being an insult to the Azeri ethnic group which occupies the northern part of Iran and consist of people of Turkish descent. This group is often the target of insults from Iranians and so the government was only to happy to blame the subsequent riots, material damage and deaths on Neyestani's drawing. Neyestani and his editor-in-chief were soon arrested and taken to the Evin prison, even though they hadn't actually broken any law. An Iranian Metamorphosis is the tale of the events that lead to this arrest, as well as Neyestani's time in jail and his attempts at clearing his name, ending up with him and his wife seeking political refuge in a Western country. Neyestani and his wife, Mansoureh, now live in France but this took some time and the French government (as well as other European and Western governments) didn't initially help them get out of Iran despite the threat of more time in prison for Neyestani, death threats and the implication of Iranian secret services.
It is frustrating of course to see how slow Western bureaucracy is and how in the end, it made it impossible for Neyestani and his wife to get out of the country through legal means. They had to resort to dealing with a smuggler who was meant to guarantee them and other Iranians safe passage to a European country because no embassy accepted to grant them the status of political refugees in time! In the end, nothing goes smoothly and it's a long, difficult and stressful process that finally led them to France. But imagine the pain of never being able to go back to your country, the pain of not really being able to say goodbye to your loved ones because they had to keep their escape secret.
What's beautiful is that Neyestani and his wife stayed together and united throughout the whole ordeal. While they did contemplate splitting up for a moment because they didn't have enough money for them to both make their way to Canada, they decided to go as far as Europe instead if that meant they could stay together.
Neyestani's wife, Mansoureh, helps him every step of the way. She's portrayed making phone calls, chasing embassies and political organizations, dealing with the smuggler among other things. Neyestani makes Mansoureh a central character to his story and there are a few scenes where the stress of the situation gets to them and they snap at one another but then quickly apologize. I thought it was brilliant to have included these short domestic scenes in the tale. They helped ground the story in reality and make it clear that this is something happening to real people, to a real couple that behaves like any couple.
An Iranian Metamorphosis is not a dry account of autobiographical events. In fact, there are quite a few humorous scenes and the recurrence of the cockroach and references to Kafka is both tragic and comic, rendering the entire work sarcastic. This is after all the story of a man being forced into exile because he drew a cockroach in a children's cartoon!
This was a fascinating and enlightening read on so many levels. As an outsider, there's a great deal to learn about Iran in this graphic novel. First of, while it seems pretty obvious that it would be the case, I didn't know that there were different ethnic groups and that some were regarded as lesser than others. Also, while this is only brushed on, there are quite a few allusions to brutal and violent "interrogation techniques" shall we call them. It's fortunate for Neyestani that he didn't have to go experience any, but honestly the solitary confinement he and his editor-in-chief had to go through seemed horrible enough as it was. You also get a nice insight of Iranian legal procedures and processes. It doesn't inspire much trust to be quite honest and it definitely gives the impression that this is a country best not to be arrested in.
I would really recommend this graphic novel, not just to graphic novel readers. I think this is one of those reads that worth getting out of your comfort zone to experience.(less)
Meet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mytholo...moreMeet the European superheroes of the fifties. This is kind of a European Watchmen but it's more than a mere ripoff, it's got enough of its own mythology and imagery to stand on its own. Can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!(less)
Wonderful premice for a story. I can't wait to read more of this. As a sanction, an inspector is sent to a city beyong the bridge known as Snowtown. S...moreWonderful premice for a story. I can't wait to read more of this. As a sanction, an inspector is sent to a city beyong the bridge known as Snowtown. Snowtown is somewhat of a wasteland with a high criminality rate and only three and half inspectors to cover the whole town. Needless to say, detective Fell's help is greatly needed but he's in for quite a ride.
The art takes a little time to get used to and having finished reading the graphic novel, I can't say I'm a huge fan of the way the characters are drawn. What I did like was the way the artist's work with color. It was very interesting in that it conveyed the general atmosphere at certain scenes and setting.
Highly recommended to all fans of comics and/or Warren Ellis.(less)