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Chicken with Plums Hardcover – October 3, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424151
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The question of what makes a life worth living has rarely been posed with as much poignancy and ambition as it is in Satrapi's dazzling new effort. Satrapi's talent for distilling complex personal histories into richly evocative vignettes made Persepolis a bestseller. Here she presents us with the story of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran's most revered musicians, who takes to bed after realizing that he'll never be able to find an instrument to replace his beloved, broken tar. Eight days later, he's dead. These final eight days, which we're taken through one by one, make up the bulk of this slim volume. While waiting for death, Nasser Ali is visited by family, memories and hallucinations. Because everything is being filtered through Satrapi's formidable imagination, we are also treated to classical Persian poetry, bits of history, folk stories, as well as an occasional flash forward into lives Nasser Ali will never have a chance to see. Each episode is illustrated with Satrapi's characteristic, almost childlike drawings, which take on the stark expressiveness of block prints. Clear and emotive, they bring surprising force and humor to this stunning tribute to a life whose worth can be measured in the questions it leaves. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

The writer and illustrator who chronicled her childhood in the best-selling graphic memoir "Persepolis" now turns to the life of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan. A revered musician, he takes to his bed and refuses sustenance after his frustrated wife breaks his tar - an Iranian lute - over her knee. It takes him eight days to die, and in that time Satrapi reveals the futures of his children and unearths his past. She shows her great-uncle not merely as a wayward romantic but as a conflicted man whose story embodies several aspects of Iranian cultural identity during the late nineteen-fifties. Satrapi's deceptively simple, remarkably powerful drawings match the precise but flexible prose she employs in adapting to her multiple roles as educator, folklorist, and grand-niece.
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Customer Reviews

Though a simple story, the manner of telling it is amazingly complex and mesmerizing.
Joshua Grasso
[I'm trying not to spoiler, so please forgive me if I'm being a little vague.] Pick up the book, read it, enjoy it, and tell the rest of us how you liked it. :)
Dinakar Sarma
In Chicken with Plums, Satrapi tells the story of her uncle, Nasser Ali Khan, a musician overtaken by a sense of meaninglessness over the loss of his tar.
Sarah Scott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on April 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's easy to be disappointed in this book if you expect something of the scale and depth of the author's "Persepolis." But Satrapi has set out to tell a different kind of story in this book, and judging by that, I'd say she has come much closer to succeeding than some reviews here might suggest. Telling her story twice, first from an outsider's point of view and then from the perspective of the main character, Satrapi gives a postmodern twist to her material. And filling in what were surely the scant details of a life she could only have known second- or third-hand, she joins a well-established genre of creative nonfiction.

If the book can be faulted, it's that the material is so rich and cries out for much fuller treatment. In its few pages, you want to know more about these characters so that they spring in three dimensions from the flat comic-strip world they inhabit. This may have more to do with the limitations of the graphic novel than Satrapi's storytelling itself. I have no reservations recommending this book for what it reveals of lives lived in a culture that is both familiar and very different and its comically sad story of a self-absorbed man so disappointed with his world that he wills his own death.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sally on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Drawn in bold black and white, Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel illustrates the moving and disturbing life and last days of her uncle, Nasser Ali Kahn. He was a famous Iranian musician, loved for his virtuosity, and the sensitivity with which he played his beloved tar.

It's a tale of how a man's happiness was gradually eroded by his culture, loss, suppressed feelings, and unrealizable expectations.

The story starts with an older man in black walking down a city street. He encounters a slender woman with her grandchild. He hesitates. Asks if her name is Irane. She doesn't recognize him. Wonders how he knows her name. He, Nasser, apologizes and walks on to a friends business where he hopes to buy a replacement for his recently broken tar.

We later learn that the broken tar had special meaning for Nasser. When he was a young man, the parents of the woman he'd fallen in love with forbade her to marry him because he was only a musician. Losing her plunged him into deep depression. He had difficulty playing. Nasser's tar master tried to console him by telling him, "To the common man, whether you're a musician or a clown, it's one and the same. The love you feel for this woman will translate into your music. She will be in every note you play." He then gave Nasser his own tar and instructed him to go on playing.

From then on, Nasser's joy was his music. His playing thrilled his audiences

Since childhood he'd been unable to meet the conventional expectations of others. His mother's, his brother's, his teachers', the parents of the woman he loved, his wife, his children.

His mother urged him to marry a woman he didn't love so that he would forget his loss. Although the woman he married did love him, she resented his music.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Wolinsky on February 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's 1959, and Nasser Ali Khan, the greatest musician in Iran, has lost all he ever loved. Not his wife, he doesn't love her. Not his children, he doesn't care for them. It's his Tar, the instrument he's played all his life. Try as he might, he can't find another Tar just like it. Bouncing from store to store, city to city, he can't find a Tar that sounds like the one he loved all his life. Too make matters worse, he recognizes a woman he'd known years earlier, bringing back a flood of memories. When he realizes he'll never find a Tar like the one he lost, he lies down to die.

In the eight days leading up to his death, Nasser looks back on his youth, and the brother whom his mother favored. He revisits the time his "educated" brother joined the communists, causing their mother to lose everything. He remembers how he bailed his brother out of trouble, then moved away to study music. There he met a women he knew he wanted, but her father refused to agree to the marriage, citing Nasser's musician status as too low for his daughter. Now, all Nasser has is a wife he never loved, two children he neglects, and an instrument that's gone and can't be replaced.

For eight days, he lies in bed, visiting the things he once loved, lost, wanted, hated, and finaly comes to terms with what he always feared true; that his sacrifices in life were all in vain.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Scott on October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of Marjane Satrapi's American releases, and I have been a fan since the first one, Persepolis. In Chicken with Plums, Satrapi tells the story of her uncle, Nasser Ali Khan, a musician overtaken by a sense of meaninglessness over the loss of his tar. Satrapi's straightforward, simple style quickly drew me into the story, which I read in a single sitting. Despite the simplicity of its approach, however, Chicken with Plums packs quite a punch. Like a Greek tragedy, it leaves you feeling stunned, full of joy and a little bitter. Her uncle's tragedy acquires meaning through her telling of it. Another successful effort on the part of Marjane Satrapi!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Bhardwaj on October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought 'Chicken with Plums' because I really liked Satrapi's 'Persepolis'.

'Plums' is based on a fascinating (true) story of Satrapi's great-uncle, Nasser Ali, a famous Iranian musician, who takes to his bed after his musical instrument is destroyed by his wife. Eight days later, he is dead.

But 'Plums' adds little to this story. It plods laboriously and gets almost unbearably bad in the middle. There are plenty of flashbacks and glimpses into Ali's posthumous world. But Satrapi's attempts at capturing universal themes through one man's story don't succeed. Nasser Ali's story reads like his own.

This would be fine if the story was engaging, but it's not. There are moments where Satrapi's genius shines through (e.g. Ali's dreams of Sophia Loren) but they're rare. The knots in Nasser Ali's life don't move the reader because their rendering feels trite. There is also some surprisingly sloppy writing (Satrapi says that it was perhaps better that Ali didn't live to see the degeneracy of his future generations, "He would surely have contracted cancer, which by all accounts is a much slower and significantly more painful way to die.")

Satrapi succeeded with Persepolis because a personal story was intertwined with a nation's (Iran). Every detail was pregnant because the themes were so sweeping - the destiny of a country and its people, the threat to their way of life. In Plums, Satrapi struggles to draw on a canvas that large. The end result looks bare and uninspiring.

I look forward to seeing better work from Satrapi.
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More About the Author

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran. She grew up in Tehran, where she studied at the French school, before leaving for Vienna and Strasbourg to study decorative arts. She currently lives in Paris, where she is at work on the sequel to Persepolis. She is also the author of several children's books.

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