The Mother and the Wife

Those of us with an adopted country always have very complex relationship with both our home countries and our adopted countries. Obviously her situation is completely different from mine, but Iranian author Marjane Satrapi makes an interesting analogy in an interview:

> So you’ve been in France for a long time now. Do you feel you can call it home in any way?

> I can live fifty years in France and my affection will always be with Iran. I always say that if I were a man I might say that Iran is my mother and France is my wife. My mother, whether she’s crazy or not, I would die for her, no matter what she is my mother. She is me and I am her. My wife I can cheat on with another woman, I can leave her, I can also love her and make her children, I can do all of that but it’s not like with my mother. But nowhere is my home any more. I will never have any home any more. Having lived what I have lived, I can never see the future. It’s a big difference when someone has to leave their country.

If you haven’t read Persepolis, I highly recommend it. I read graphic novel Maus as a teenager, and it left a deep impression on me. I haven’t gotten quite that feeling since, but Persepolis comes very close.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I liked the film version of Persepolis, too.

  2. A very thought-provoking analogy. The last part of her comment, though, strikes me as depressingly true. I recall going out to dinner with some old classmates with mine a few months ago in the States and when hearing about their lives, and telling about mine, I had the sense that I couldn’t relate to them at all.

    And yet despite living in China for nearly 4 years now, learning the language to an extent, having both platonic and romantic relationships with the locals, and feeling quite comfortable here I feel every day like a man still on the outside (外国人 if you will).

    Believe me- I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s, but man- not really knowing what to call “home” anymore is pretty trippy.

  3. Man.. I’m soooo glad I left my home country, or else my mother and wife would be one and the same…

  4. I’ve seen the movie and read the books. Marjane’s work is amazing. Didn’t know that quote and really like it. thanks for sharing.
    I’m french and wanna live abroad.

    one important difference to point out: Marjane had to leave Iran. Not really her choice…

  5. Philippe,

    Yeah, I realize it’s kind of silly for me — coming from the richest country in the world to leave in China because it’s “interesting” — to compare myself to Marjane (who fled a war-torn country to grow up in a safer place). But hey, we both have adopted countries, so the analogy is still interesting to me. 🙂

  6. The USCC seems to have almost the same view of the chinese in the US.
    full report

  7. Oops, last one was the 2006 report.
    Here is the full 2007 report

  8. In the comic, Marjane left Austria with great grief, was the first time she’s been segregated from Iran alone. But I quite don’t understand why she hasn’t mentioned a word of her life in France. Yes, we saw her deep love for mother Iran, yet her adolescence under a western way proved to be kinda unadaptable while she now still lives in a western country (although not her free choice).
    btw, I prefer the comic book to the movie, it holds a certain fascination for me to stare at those splendid prints! I can read it for 4th time.

  9. I have thought of it the same way. Holland is my mother, she will always be my mother, and whereever I go that will be where I am from. In a similar comparison, I used to compare China to a bad boyfriend 🙂 I know he beats people up, and sometimes treats me rather badly as well, but what can I do, I love him.

  10. Lu,

    Ha ha… nice addition. 🙂

  11. i feel the same way, but then adding the middle east as the friend i promised to help move this weekend. and next weekend.

  12. No matter how much the boyfriend beats you up, it’s still better than life living under Mother’s crushing thumb.

  13. Abstract Says: March 6, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve read Marjane’s interviews also.

    This analogy is too true.

    But people don’t often realise this, until they’ve lived in a foreign country.

  14. If my friends and family moved out with me, I could care less which country I came from or live in.

  15. quite interesting when read. haha, l will come to read it from now on. Pls keep update!

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