I happened to read ‘Chicken with Plums’ by Marjane Satrapi recently. The book tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan, a famous tar musician, who becomes distraught after his tar is broken and after numerous attempts to find another one for himself and being unable to do so, he decides to end his life. The book primarily focuses on his last 8 days as he comes to the conclusion that death is the best way out for him from his misery.
The book alternates between the past and the present where Naseer lays dying in his bed. His fixation for Sophia Loren, the most popular actress for the day is evident in the narrative. Nasser Ali is a man who is not happy with the way things have gone for him in his life. He was the one who failed nearly every exam during his school years while his younger brother, Abdi, excelled at everything. Even his mother did not love him as much as she loved his brother. He could not marry the love of his life, Irane, as her father was of the opinion that a musician could not provide well for his daughter. So he had to settle for a girl he did not love as much. He felt even his four children were ungrateful and did not care for him. His strained relationship with his wife is evident from the fact that despite being madly in love with him before they were married, she now resents the fact that she is the sole breadwinner of the family apart from having to do all the household work and it is this resentment that ultimately leads her to break the tar, fearing that the instrument is the source of all her problems. But instead of jolting her husband out of his senses and compelling him to do some work, this incident serves to further his resolve of leaving this world.
The book explores the myriad human emotions undergone by a man who loves his instrument more than anything else in the world, even Irane. After being disallowed from marrying Irane, it was the tar that kept him going in life and ultimately made him forget her. But once the tar was broken and his failure to acquire another of the same quality led him to ruminate once more on the past. The title of the book is a throwback to the favorite dish of the protagonist who loved the way his mother prepared it. Ultimately it is the memory of Irane and the fact that she did not recognize him in the street in his old age leads to his death.
Although not as good as Persepolis, this is a fair work by the author and a definite one time read.