Even though I had previously devoured Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, I was pleasantly surprised by Chicken with Plums. I am yet to read Embroideries, her other masterpiece. Satrapi uses the same formula that has worked so well in the past—using black and white drawings, milking her family history (the story of her uncle, the musician, in this case), throwing in a few truly quirky characters (“Cigarettes are food for the soul” says one of them), adding a dash of psychological realism (her uncle’s delusions) and retelling it in her own mould. She also experiments with narrative styles moving away from both the linear as well as the flashback techniques. The death of her uncle takes place on page 18 in an 84 page book. The rest of the book is how her uncle spends the last 8 days of his life almost in a fast-unto-death mission after he literally and figuratively loses the love of his life—his tar, an Iranian musical instrument comparable to the violin or guitar. In the eight sections that follow, Satrapi delves into his childhood, his past, his love, his music and his struggles, some of which remain unresolved. Apart from his music, almost every other part of her uncle’s life had been a compromise, which he realises quite late in his life. That, as Socrates says, is the tragedy—a good man who is consumed by troubles.
The circular structure of the narrative adds to the treatment of this story. The story starts with a few frames, which are repeated later towards the end of the story but with a changed perception or heightened awareness. Satrapi’s talent consists of creating an honest story not co-incidentally unlike the title of the book, which refers to a home-cooked recipe.