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Chicken with Plums Hardcover – October 3, 2006
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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.)
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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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Top customer reviews
That said, I agree with other 1 and 2 star reviews that this book falls far short of her seminal work in Persepolis 1 & 2. I am also disgusted that she would be in sympathy with Khan and (apparently) not see that it was malignant, petulant, unloving narcissism that fueled his every action.
Nasser was a renowned Iranian tar (a Persian stringed instrument, like a lute) player whose music was his life. In a heated argument, his jealous wife destroys his tar. When he can't find a suitable replacement, he despairs unto death. As the days pass, Nasser loses more and more of his will to live, while reflecting on some good memories from his life.
Satrapi tells the story with sensitivity and humor, but it did not move me like perhaps it should have. Ultimately I was not moved, and not terribly impressed with the stark, minimalist black and white presentation. I was left with the feeling that Chicken with Plums was an admirable labor of love by Satrapi, who wanted to honor the memory of her great uncle. Chicken with Plums is worth a look for Satrapi fans, and for fans of graphic novels, but the general audience, me included, can probably take it or leave it.
Nasser Ali Khan!!! What an honor to welcome you to my humble shop!!
Mirza! I'm looking for a tar.
A tar?! But you own probably the best one in the country!
Someone broke it.
In the name of God! Who dared to break the tar of Nasser Ali Khan?
It is always great for me to find Rumi mentioned in the books I like, and an angel of death that helps to explain how suicides are not like normal people is also great. The wish for death is closely associated with dervish mystics in CHICKEN WITH PLUMS, but picturing a musician son of a mystic mother makes this story an explanation of remarkable clarity. Having nine or twelve pictures on some pages helped me read this book at the slow pace it deserves.