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The Paris Review: "[Izzo] distill[s] a part of the world into just a few pages."

Date: Apr 12 2013

I haven’t read Jean-Claude Izzo’s Mediterranean trilogy, the modern noir series that made him famous, nor have I visited his beloved Marseilles. Reading GARLIC, MINT, & SWEET BASIL: ESSAYS ON MARSEILLES, THE MEDITERRANEAN, AND NOIR FICTION, a collection of his short nonfiction, makes me want to do both. Izzo imparts the aura of his hometown without giving anecdotes and history lessons; Marseilles is, he says, a “culture, diverse, mixed, where man remains master both of his time and of his geographical and social space.” At times passages brought back Edmund White’s THE FLANEUR or Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Travels in Greece,” two disparate but masterful works of place; GARLIC, MINT, & SWEET BASIL is as different from them as they are from each other, but shares the ability to distill a part of the world into just a few pages.

—Clare Fentress

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