Marjane Satrapi – Chicken With Plums
45. Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi (2004)
Length: 84 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Started/Finished: 24 July 2015
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Random browsing and I recognized her name from reading Persepolis.
When the music dies,
a musician decides it’s
time for his death too.
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.
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