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Garlic, Mint, and Sweet Basil: Essays on Marseilles, The Mediterranean, and Noir Fiction Paperback – May 7 2013
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“What makes Izzo’s work haunting is his extraordinary ability to convey the tastes and smells of Marseilles.” —The New Yorker
“Our last true romantic, Jean-Claude Izzo transmits warmth to his readers, as if granting them a mouthful of pure love.” —Le Point (France)
“Just as Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy made Los Angeles their very own, so Mr. Izzo has made Marseilles so much more than just another geographical setting.” —The Economist
About the Author
Jean-Claude Izzo was born in Marseilles, France, in 1945. He achieved astounding success with his Marseilles Trilogy (Total Chaos, Chourmo, Solea). In addition to the books in this trilogy, his two novels (The Lost Saliors, and A Sun for the Dying) and one collection of short stories (Vivre fatigue) also enjoy great success with both critics and the public. Izzo died in 2000 at the age of fifty-five.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the first instance, Izzo is at pains to drive home the Mediterranean character of his hometown. Marseille, the second largest city in France, may indeed be the capital of the region known as Provence-Alpes, Cote d'Azur, but Izzo insists that the city, its cuisine, and its very identity should not be confused with those of Provence or France more generally. Instead, it should be understood as a city largely composed of residents, like Izzo himself, who are of mixed cultural heritage and have something of a sense of otherness even in their hometown. At the same time, he passionately argues, the character of Marseille is uniquely shaped by the many nations in Europe and Africa that rim the Mediterranean Sea to both the north and south.
The secondary theme that weaves its way through the essays, especially when Izzo writes of either culinary matters or the pleasures of experiencing the sea, is what he terms "the intoxication of living." This, he says in the essay titled "Here, My Darling, Taste This," was invented in Marseille. In his book "God in Search of Man," the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that "our goal should be to live life in radical amazement...Everything is phenomenal...To be spiritual is to be amazed." By this standard, the Marseille-loving Izzo was indeed spiritual and herein lies the charm of this slim volume of essays.
And, of course, a portion of this volume is devoted to discussing the literary movement--Medierranean noir--that Izzo is credited with developing. One essay provides a sweeping view of the "noir" ("dark") current in Mediterranean literature, while the concluding section of the book reprints a four-page piece of fiction concerning Fabio Montale, the fictional detective of Izzo's "Marseille Trilogy." Finally, Izzo assesses Montale and lists the detective's favorite places, music, and books.