Chicken with Plums
For people with musical passions, being a musician is not a nine-to-five job but a soulful calling. In Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums, we are introduced to musician Nasser Ali, an emotive man living in 1950s Iran who is in search of a new tar (Persian lute). His old tar has been broken. Though Nasser Ali searches desperately for a replacement lute, it is no use; he tries out so many different tars and none of them work for him. He decides to die.
This graphic novel sets itself up with a vague opening and what looks like an absurd man. Who would die over a tar? Nasser Ali gets into bed and dies successfully in about a week, going without food or happiness. And as each of his last days go by, the story takes us through time. Sometimes it shows us what will happen in the future, but it’s the revealing of the past that really gets to the meat of things. It’s those flashbacks that show what led up to all this. Would a man really die over a tar? No. There’s something deeper here, and it only makes sense by reading through the book. By the end, it all comes together and Nasser Ali gives up the ghost.
Chicken with Plums is a subtle but profound read. Some might describe its artwork as simple, as it isn’t overly detailed, yet it always gets the point across. And what might start out looking convoluted swiftly becomes a tight yarn as more of Nasser Ali’s life gets explained. Its plot is difficult to explain without giving anything away, but the haunting lightness of the story is what gives it its power. In the midst of tragedy, it even has its moments of humor, keeping it away from being an entirely sad read.
This sort of deftness can be expected from Satrapi, who should be well known to most readrs from her breakthrough nonfiction works Persepolis and Persepolis 2. A staple of The New Yorker and New York Times, Satrapi is one of the most exciting and visible young graphjic artists in the field today, and certainly one of its most respected and admired. Satrapi raises the bar of this field, and shows there are many forms and genres for graphic novels.
The sense of mysticism in Chicken with Plums also gives it a unique feeling and doesn’t let the outcome feel completely hopeless, only melancholy. In a mere 84 pages, Satrapi gives something heartfelt and unique that can keep a reader thinking about it long after turning its last page.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on July 5, 2012
Chicken with Plums
- Publication Date: April 14, 2009
- Genres: Graphic Novel
- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon
- ISBN-10: 0375714758
- ISBN-13: 9780375714757