Paris Via Marseilles: Marseilles Trilogy

From regular contributor Betty Guernsey ~

Over the centuries, thousands of writers have written about Paris; very few have written about Marseilles, which is, after all, the second largest city in France. Perhaps the most notable exception is Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), author of the famous Marseille Trilogy “Marius”, “Fanny”, and “César”.

The second might well be Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000), whose own Marseilles Trilogy, comprising three hard-hitting volumes (somewhat surprisingly titled “Total Chaos”, “Chourmo”, and “Solea” and billed as Mediterranean Noir) not only became best-sellers in Europe but inspired a French miniseries starring a mature, salt-and-peppered Alain Delon as Izzo’s hero/protagonist Fabio Montale. (I picture Montale as an Yves Montand of a certain age – after reading the books, take your pick.)

From the point of view of Marseilles itself, the first two books in the series are the most compelling, pulling the reader into the very essence of the city – its sights, its sounds, its tastes, its smells, its unique light, and not least its people, a tangle of ethnicities from all over the Mediterranean and beyond.

Izzo paints the panorama of the port, the coastline, the Estanques, the islands of Frioul; makes your mouth water for fish fresh from the sea, a bowl of homemade bouillabaisse, a sip of crisp white Cassis, and the lingering scents of basil, mint, and anise, passionately blending them all with the political and criminal realities lurking not too far beneath the surface of his beloved birthplace.

Merci infiniment, Betty!

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