Marjane Satrapi is known for several works as: Persepolis, Monsters are Afraid of the Moon, and The Sigh. In this novel, Chicken With Plums, she shows Iranian culture, as well as situations that concern daily life in various cultures, also embracing topics as love, music, and marriage. The passages selected from this work are directly related to his instrument and the story around it.
In the first passage, one can find the story behind his marriage with Nahid. “The reader finds out that she is in love since she has met her husband, when she was only 8 and he was 15 years old. Firstly, he uses Nahid for delivering letters to another girl that he likes without realizing the latter’s interest in him.” (Satrapi 43). It is one of the signs of Nahid’s position as a victim of delusion, but she grows up foolishly in love with Nasser Ali. This first aspect shows how deep can a person’s conviction towards uncontrolled feelings be, and how one can sometimes sacrifice oneself for another person’s happiness, even if the feeling is not reciprocal.
“As Nahid’s tale continues, Nasser Ali keeps remembering. She speaks of Nasser Ali’s departure to Shiraz to study Tar and confesses to him how she waited for him to return” (Satrapi 44 – 46). However, while she speaks he also remembers his time in Shiraz and his meeting Irane, the true love of his life. “He was in a jewelry store when he saw the girl, who was the daughter of the owner, and he was stunned by her beauty and felt in love with her at first sight” (Satrapi 46). Her father replied that it was a bad decision to take off the mandatory use of the veil (hijab) as he was rather strict.
“Nasser Ali proposed to Irane as she was in love too. Everything was beautiful until he asked her father, who indeed disliked him as soon as he heard he was a musician. The man held some stereotypes about this job and considered his daughter’s beau as too poor to provide any sustenance to his family. Nasser Ali felt destroyed after the denial; he sheltered in his instrument and kept going to classes with his master, who immediately noticed an amazing improvement in the young man’s technique.” (Satrapi 76 – 78). Then, Nasser Ali burst into tears and talked with his master about the situation with Irane, to which he responded to be grateful for it because suffering was the best incentive for an artist to carry on with his art. Many examples of his master’s words may be traced, among them Vincent Van Gogh, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Otto Dix. All of these artists had plenty of obstacles and suffered from diverse tragedies in their lives as being in jail, falling in love with prostitutes, suffering from severe addictions, and facing death of beloved ones. It seems that these tragic factors detonated artists’ creation and gave the world masterpieces such as Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or Van Gogh’s Starry Night. These achievements would not be possible if the artists have had it easier in life.
“After the talk with his master, Nasser Ali received from him a Tar that his master passed to him and to Nasser respectively” (Satrapi 78). More than a mere instrument is the symbol of legacy and tradition, highly appreciated for its quality, and more for the emotional value. An instrument represents to an artist a way of communication as Nasser Ali’s master tells him; it is through the music that he will express his deepest feelings bringing emotions and experiences to the audience in a universal language such as music. Some musicians have mystical connections with their instruments as they see it as their only way to get out their inner voice, to the point when they name their instruments and take care of them as if those were children.
“When the protagonist returns to Tehran, he still feels depressed and tries to forget his impossible love. As expected, Nahid waits for him in his hometown and has found the way of spending time with him. Then he realizes her interest in him but does not love her; nevertheless he gives in gradually to social pressure as his mom starts pushing him to get married and start a family.” (Satrapi 78 – 80). This is also an important trait about the society: for some cultures, it is mandatory to get married and have children. People who do not get married nor have any children, it is seen almost like a sin. The social pressure is a large burden to carry with, usually their own families often discuss their sentimental life as a matter of family when it must be an own decision, taking it to the extreme of wishing death or leaving the country forever.
“Finally, Nahid’s tale reaches its actual time, and Nasser Ali remembers as they argued and she broke his beloved Tar. He explodes in anger and yells at her, telling the woman the painful truth: he never loved her. Nahid, broken by his words, calls him a monster and runs out of the room crying. Nasser Ali knows he did wrong, but despite that he does not apologize and falls asleep as well as keeps waiting for his death” (Satrapi 47 – 48).
This love story shows several traits of the Iranian culture, relationships with the other and with objects, and how love can take so many shapes; how fragile a relationship can be, even with life itself. It also speaks of culture, country’s history and cultural changes throughout earlier years. It is indeed a cultural jewel amongst graphic novels and gets to the reader in a universal language.