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Chicken With Plums

July 22, 2010


Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi
published by Pantheon, October 3, 2006

Recommended by Ana and Amanda.

This graphic novel by the author of Persepolis was inspired by the life of Marjane Satrapi’s great-uncle. Nasser Ali Khan has been passionate about two things in his life: a young woman he once courted, whose father wouldn’t allow them to marry, and his music. He’s spent his life playing his tar and has become one of Iran’s most revered musicians. When his instrument is broken, under circumstances you will discover, he searches in vain for the perfect tar to replace it. When he can’t, he takes to his bed and decides to give up on life.

Nasser Ali Khan is surrounded by his four children and his devoted but bitter wife, exhausted from years of  supporting the family, managing the household, and caring for the kids while her husband devotes his life to his music. Nasser is also visited by his brother. But he is disconnected from everyone around him, waiting to die. During the last days of his life, he is visited by odd visions, including the angel of death and Sophia Loren. We also get glimpses of Nassar’s life through flashbacks and glimpses of the distant future. Many threads run through this deceptively simple story, revealing Iranian history, folklore, religion and philosophy.

I didn’t like Nasser Ali Khan much — he is intelligent, talented, and passionate about his art, but he is not a kind man. Nevertheless, through brief, artfully crafted flashbacks, the author revealed hidden layers to his humanity.

This is a sad, moving story about yearning and the fundamental things we believe make our lives worth living. It is also a tale about being oblivious to the feelings of the people who love us most. I highly recommend it, and I am in awe of Satrapi’s gift for storytelling and her ability to weave a handful of words and images into a tale rich with cultural, spiritual, and emotional experience. This is a book which I read quickly but am unlikely to forget.

Read More Reviews: Reading and Rooibus; Things Mean a Lot; The Zen Leaf; Read About Comics

Rating:

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 1:40 am

    I didn’t like him much at first either, but I really came to understand him at the end. That last panel where the woman is crying (trying not to give away spoilers!) broke my heart and made me cry as well. This is my favorite of Satrapi’s books so far.

    • July 22, 2010 2:47 pm

      I think I came to empathize with him in the end, too. It’s possible, in the hands of a skilled author, to feel compassion for someone you don’t like. I often experience that in life too. 🙂

  2. July 22, 2010 2:56 am

    I have tried to get the earlier book written by Satrapi and could not.
    Books by this author is not available in my part of the world so will
    have to try elsewhere.

    • July 22, 2010 2:49 pm

      I hope you’re able to find these books, even though they’re not available in Sri Lanka. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. July 22, 2010 5:27 am

    It sounds like a beautiful story! More than anything, I think our perception of what will make our lives happier and fulfilling, is what keeps us from enjoying life and the people around us.

  4. July 22, 2010 7:02 am

    I felt much as you did – he wasn’t that sympathetic a character, but in the end I really felt for him. I really admire Satrapi for achieving that.

  5. July 23, 2010 5:32 pm

    Crap! Yet another book to add to the to buy list. 🙂

  6. July 27, 2010 2:27 am

    I have heard nothing but positive things about this author! I have only ever seen the movie Persepolis, but now I want to read the books, too. Soon, I hope!

  7. August 2, 2010 12:23 am

    I loved this book. I didn’t like Nasser much either, but I admired the way Marjane told his story. While I never excused him for wanting to give up on his life, I could at least understand him better towards the last few pages. This is definitely one of my favorites by Marjane Satrapi.

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