Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Chicken with Plums
Satrapi relates the death of her great-uncle and celebrated musician Nasser Ali Khan with the cool detachment of a reporter. Her drawings and captions do not reveal how she views the events she shares with us. Her uncle took to his bed one day and decided he was going to die. It appears to have taken him eight days.

The explanation Satrapi offers us is that he lived for his music. When his beautiful instrument was broken by his wife in a moment of rage, he never imagined his talent would abandon him. But Khan believed he played so well because he carried within his heart an unfulfilled but requited love that sustained him and fed his talent. When he thought that love was withdrawn, he lost the will to live. Was he foolish?

I have heard that it is possible for a person to give up their will to live, but I have always thought it a conundrum: it takes enormous will to give up one’s will. I would not have thought it so common in majority Christian Western democracies to find such abandonment of will, but I believe the Asian countries have many examples of suicide by simply refusing to live, and now Satrapi tells us it is apparently not unusual in the Middle East as well.

It looks like a relatively peaceful, painless way to go, emotional trauma aside, if she describes it correctly. Since she wasn’t there, it’s possible it wasn’t quite as comfy as it looks. This observation is separate from the discussion about whether it was a good choice. I would have to say, in his case, with the information we have of his life, it was not a good choice. He seems to lack the maturity to make a reasonable moral choice on the matter.

Regarding the love affair: bosh! Unrequited love has been the impetus for, and subject of, many a grand piece of music. The more unrequited the love, the grander the music. Nasser’s old lover may still have loved him. We don’t know, and neither did he. But she’d been mature in making the best of what she did have. He should have, too.

I think his wife was right. He was a selfish bastard.

This book is what they call a "graphic novel." It is not a novel and it is not graphic, but it is called that none-the-less. Satrapi’s drawings, writing, and presentation of the issues are dead-on terrific and deserve much praise. That I don’t condone the activities described therein does not alter my praise of her skills. Nice controversial piece. She's a devilish one, that Satrapi. Keep your eye on her.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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