photo & text by nacrowe
through an eloquently told and LOVINGLY depicted generations old family narrative about her great-uncle during pre-revolution IRAN, CHICKEN WITH PLUMS (PANTHEON, 2009) by FRENCH-PERSIAN author / cartoonist MARJANE SATRAPI is an extended meditation about the DELICATE relationship between ART and SUFFERING.
NASSER ALI is a TAR musician of note whose life was DERAILED by his INABILITY to secure a desired marriage due to his would-be bride's family qualms about his profession. out of duty to his family he agreed to a LOVELESS marriage of which he felt no sense of KINSHIP or RESPONSIBILITY and after his wife destroys his TAR he wishes only to DIE.
there is an interesting parallel with his mother, who years earlier was held back by DEATH by NASSER's constant praying for her SURVIVAL. after being asked to stop praying on her behalf and let her go, as well as continue playing music outside her window, DEATH is utilized as a form of DEEP COMPASSION. the music that soothed her through the process was informed by this closely felt sense of LOSS but also EMPATHY towards her condition. when NASSER himself seeks DEATH in a SIMILAR manner there is no sense of COMPASSION or EMPATHY, but instead a deep reservoir of SELFISHNESS and SELF-PITY.
its interesting that his master tutor when training to master the TAR catches on to his LOVELORN SUFFERING and that his career, reputation and GLORY as a musician was based on such an INTIMATE sense of IRREDEEMABLE LOSS and CONSTANT MISERY. the destruction of his INSTRUMENT is in essence the loss of his IDENTITY, which itself was just the collected remnants of an UNREQUITED LOVE. its all quite TRAGIC and quite MOVING.
i should also give mention to the POWER of SATRAPI's images which are heavily inked-out in a strict monochrome palette that simultaneously exudes a SEVERE tone of austerity as well as intimates a sense of lyrical mystery. its both MINIMALIST and highly EXPRESSIVE and really uplifts the POWERFUL narrative themes of surrounding the COMPLICATED nature of LOVE, FAMILY and DUTY to a preternatural extent. its a masterclass in STORYTELLING and comes off as a deeply felt coming to terms with a family TRAUMA generations old but as relevant to the current moment as it was back then before society was effectively shut down after the ISLAMIC REVOLUTION. CHICKEN WITH PLUMS is required reading in my opinion.