Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums is a classic twice-told tale. The first version of events, presented in our Spring 2006 issue, traces Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran’s most celebrated tar players, on his search for a new instrument. His tar, the instrument he played and loved for all his adult life, has been broken, and none of the replacements he tries is adequate. He takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all of its pleasures. In the second installment, forthcoming in our Summer 2006 issue, we will see the same story again—but in a much different light, with many new details revealed.
For Satrapi, who was born in Rasht, Iran, and grew up in the last years of pre-revolution Tehran, this is a deeply personal fable. Nasser Ali Khan was Satrapi’s real-life great uncle and, one suspects, she might have shared his artistic repression had she not divorced her Iranian husband and fled the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fundamentalist police for Paris—as described in Persepolis 2. Thus, Nasser Ali Khan’s longing for a more open Iran is especially heartbreaking, as readers of Satrapi’s other work know that even the limited freedoms he enjoys will disappear in the wake of revolution.
In short, like her earlier work in Persepolis and Embroideries, Satrapi presents a complex and deeply human portrait of the men and women of her country and of pre-revolution Iran itself. She reveals the profound consequences of a society where self-determination is denied. At the same time, she delivers the moving story of one man’s inability to escape the haunting specters of what might have been and the devastation it ultimately visits upon him and all those around him.
Poulet aux prunes has already received the award for graphic novel of the year from the Angoulême International Comics Festival. We are proud to present, exclusive to VQR, the first English translation. The excerpt featured in our Spring issue runs 16 pages. Through an arrangement with Satrapi’s US publisher, Pantheon Books, we’re able to display a portion of the work here.
—Ted Genoways, editor of VQR