lunes, 9 de octubre de 2017

Chourmo

Chourmo (Folio Policier, 2014)
by Jean-Claude Izzo
France, 1996

Two books into Izzo's brooding Marseille Trilogy, I'm increasingly bummed that I only have one more title in the series to look forward to.  Rad "mayhem yarn," somewhere between Raymond Chandler's Marlowe novels and Yasmina Khadra's Commissaire Llob quartet both in temperament and on the crime-and-disillusionment scale, spun with pace and soul not to mention an unusually distinctive sense of place.  A Marseille where corrupt cops, the white collar wing of the international mafia, and local Islamist extremists from the Bronx-like northern banlieues of the city all vie to suck the life blood out of their teeming prey in the so-called "première ville du tiers-monde" ["first city of the Third World"] (423).  And a Marseille in which even the most world-weary among its inhabitants can find some much needed solace in revisiting old folk songs imported from Algiers and Naples, savoring the perfect bouillabaisse or partaking in some other aspect of the immigrant-rich patrimony of "l'art de vivre marseillais" ["the Marseille-style art of living"] (389).  "La vie est un mauvais film, oú le Technicolor ne change rien au fond de l'histoire" ["Life is a bad movie where Technicolor doesn't change anything at the heart of the story"] (385), laments ex-cop Fabio Montale in a line that could have been lifted straight out of a Jean-Pierre Melville French gangster film, reflecting on friends and family now gone--a lament rife with irony given the vitality of the life-force coursing through Izzo's sour mash note to his native city. A treat.

Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000)

Chourmo appears on pp. 305-579 of Izzo's La trilogie Fabio Montale (Paris: Folio Policier, 2014).  For more on the preceding volume in the trilogy, please see the post about Total Khéops written in an almost unintelligible French here.

8 comentarios:

  1. I find that these types of books can be ca be kind os Grim as well as fun at the same time.

    I will recommend this one to my wife. She can read it untranslated. My French is shaky at best so I would need the translated edition.

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    1. Kind of grim as well as fun indeed! One of the eye-openers in this book for me was seeing how far back relatively-speaking one can trace the problem of assimilation of North African immigrant groups on the French mainland. I had thought this was a more recent phenomenon but apparently not or at least not in Marseille, which has always had a huge immigrant presence.

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  2. I'm surprised by myself - why haven't I read him yet.
    I love both Chandler and Khadra and the Marseille setting appeals to me.

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    1. I'd be surprised if you didn't get a kick out of these, Caroline. I think they're pretty snazzy. Of course, I'd be curious to know how much Izzo's portrayal of Marseille matches your own experience of the city. Would love to visit there someday to experience Marseille for myself.

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  3. These sound similar to Leonardo Sciascia's Sicilian crime novels. Have you read The Day of the Owl or To Each His Own? Mafia, corruption, and murder: the trifecta of "crime and disillusionment". Good stuff.

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    1. I always think of Sciascia's novels as having such a unique vibe (the great The Day of the Owl in partic.) that I'm hesitant to say that the similarities with Izzo are anything but coincidental at best. That being said, I like what both authors do with the raw material and the emphasis both Sciascia and Izzo place on the long reach of the mob as it relates to their stories. Glad to note the return of your own blog, by the way--will update my links to it accordingly. Cheers!

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    2. Yeah, Sciascia has that early Graham Greene thing going, with innocence betrayed constantly by wickedness. I'll keep an eye out for the Izzo, especially as I have an interest in the criminal side of Marseilles.

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    3. I hadn't ever thought of that early Graham Greene/Sciascia thematic connection before. Interesting!

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