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Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Chicken With Plums (2004)

by Marjane Satrapi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Summary: Marjane Satrapi's uncle was Nasser Ali Khan, the celebrated musician. In 1958, when his wife broke his instrument, he attempts to replace it, but it seems as though the passion that animated his music has gone out of him, and no new instrument sounds the same. Thrown into a deep depression, Khan makes the decision that he's going to die, and takes to his bed, unable to be roused by his wife, children, friends, or even his own memories of the past or glimpses of the future.

Review: This is a slim little book, but it tells an elegant story. It's structured very non-linearly - there's lots of looping forwards and backwards in time, since most of the book takes place inside Khan's head as he's laying in bed, thinking about his life, and waiting to die. Satrapi does some interesting things with these flashbacks, not just in terms of how the story itself, but also how the length and placement of these flashback panels influence the rhythm of how the story unfolds, and how the true meaning of Khan's decisions slowly unfurls in the mind of the reader. However, I thought this story wasn't quite as well developed as it could have been. Part of this was that the notion of "everything is awful, so I may as well die" is not a natural one for me, so I found it somewhat hard to empathize with Khan. I also would have liked to have seen more about his relationships with his children - what was there was very interesting, but it could certainly have been more developed. So, overall, this book tells a short but surprisingly complex little story in Satrapi's signature style, even if it didn't have the emotional heft of something like Persepolis. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you like Satrapi's work, this is also worth a try, but I think it would also be of interest to a reader who is interested in non-linear narratives, and the way that stories can be built. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Aug 26, 2015 |
This was a quick read by the author of Persepolis. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't anything spectacular. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel style account of her great-uncle's suicide. When Nasser Ali Khan's beloved tar is broken in a heated argument, he decides life is no longer worth living. He retires to his bedroom and stays in bed for seven days, not eating until he eventually dies of a broken heart.

Told with her usual start black and white artwork and her poetic turn of phrase, Chicken with Plums is the story of a life unwinding. It's mostly a look back throughout his life at the good and the bad and how music was his escape from monotony and possibly depression.

Through no careful planning on my part, beyond going to the library and picking up a bunch of graphic novels I wanted to read, I read Chicken with Plums and Emily and the Strangers Volume 1 back to back. Both are about the importance of music, though the first is about the tragedy of lost music, whereas the second is about a haunted guitar that will bring the best music to the right person. Although one is very serious and the other isn't, I do recommend reading them together, especially if you're musically inclined. ( )
  pussreboots | Feb 17, 2015 |
This review and others posted over at my blog

From the back of the book: We are in Tehran in 1958, and Nasser Ali Kahn, one of Iran’s most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and children.

Nasser Ali selfishly decides to die, but before he does so, he reflects back on his life and we are given a look into his thoughts during the eight days before he passes. This book was fantastically dark and depressing, yet also very poignant and revealing. I didn’t know whether to like Nasser Ali or not – but he felt so human. He plays favorites with his children, argues with his wife, can’t get over the girl who got away, resents his brother for being their mother’s favorite. What shocked me most was the fact that music was such a large part of his life and when he couldn’t find a replacement tar he literally decided to die and die he did! Satrapi packed a lot of emotion into just 84 pages, primarily doing so through her illustrations. I have a lot of respect for her as an author and I’d be hard pressed to say whether I enjoyed this or her Persepolis stories more. ( )
  MillieHennessy | Sep 20, 2014 |
It's impossible for me to dislike anything Satrapi's created but this beautifully told and illustrated tale was spoiled by my intense dislike of the protagonist. ( )
  Ceilidhann | Sep 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Nasser is also visited by his children and his brother, thinks about the pleasures of the world — including his favorite dish, which gives the book its title — and reviews old hurts to his reputation and how others treated him. His suicide through neglect is a bit over-glamorized here, but it raises important questions of the nature of suffering in art.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marjane Satrapiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Singh, AnjaliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375424156, Hardcover)

In her acclaimed Persepolis books and in Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi rendered the events of her life and times in a uniquely captivating and powerful voice and vision. Now she turns that same keen eye and ear to the heartrending story of her great-uncle, a celebrated Iranian musician who gave up his life for music and love.

We are in Tehran in 1958, and Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran’s most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it, one whose sound speaks to him with the same power and passion with which his music speaks to others. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and his four children. Over the course of the week that follows, his family and close friends attempt to change his mind, but Nasser Ali slips further and further into his own reveries: flashbacks and flash-forwards (with unexpected appearances by the likes of the Angel of Death and Sophia Loren) from his own childhood through his children’s futures. And as the pieces of his story slowly fall into place, we begin to understand the profundity of his decision to give up life.

Marjane Satrapi brings what has become her signature humor, insight, and generosity to this emotional tale of life and death, and the courage and passion both require of us. The poignant story of one man, it is also a story of stunning universality–and an altogether luminous work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The author relates the story of her great-uncle, Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran's most acclaimed musicians, who discovers that his beloved instrument has been irrevocably damaged and renounces the world, its pleasures, and life itself.

» see all 2 descriptions

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