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Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy) [Paperback]

By Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis (Translator)
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Item description for Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy) by Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis...

"Jean-Claude Izzo's . . . growing literary renown and huge sales are leading to a recognizable new trend in continental fiction: the rise of the sophisticated Mediterranean thriller. . . . Caught between pride and crime, racism and fraternity, tragedy and light, messy urbanization and generous beauty, the city for [detective Fabio Montale] is a Utopia, an ultimate port of call for exiles. There, he is torn between fatalism and revolt, despair and sensualism."-The Economist

This first installment in the legendary Marseilles Trilogy sees Fabio Montale turning his back on a police force marred by corruption and racism and taking the fight against the mafia into his own hands.

Jean-Claude Izzo achieved astoundingly rapid success with his Marseilles Trilogy. He died in Marseilles in 2000 at the age of 55.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   248
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2005
Publisher   Europa Editions
ISBN  1933372044  
ISBN13  9781933372044  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jean-Claude Izzo was born in Marseilles in 1945. Best known for the Marseilles trilogy ("Total Chaos," "Chourmo," "Solea"), Izzo is also the author of "The Lost Sailors," and "A Sun for the Dying." Izzo is widely credited with being the founder of the modern Mediterranean noir movement. He died in 2000 at the age of fity-five.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
3Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General
4Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

Reviews - What do customers think about Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy)?

Gritty portrait of Marseilles--French noir  Aug 19, 2008
"Total Chaos" will satisfy most mystery readers and probably seriously please any francophile or Marseilles-phile. First and foremost, the book is a biography of the city of Marseilles, with its history, geography, demography and cuisine front and center. Imposed on this intensely interesting backdrop is a very dark crime/police procedural that takes the reader through a labyrinth of relationships and characters before arriving at a very creative ending. Love, lust, betrayal and hatred are part of the story's mix, and all in abundance. There is an appropriately cynical antagonist in Fabio Montale, a cop with scruples who is bent on revenging the deaths of two childhood friends.

A secondary, but very important part of the novel, is author Jean-Claude Izzo's sympathetic presentation of Marseilles' underclass communities and their limited prospects in life. His descriptions of the housing projects where the city's poor lived in the 1980s are pretty much in sync with what we were reading about the same places and people in the past couple of years. Not many changes have been made in the interim.

This is a first rate book that should appeal to a lot of readers. Marseilles has not been so endearingly and accurately described since M.F.K. Fisher's memoir, "Two Towns in Provence."
A Mediterranean city is really my culture  Dec 13, 2007
Zinedine Zidane

Jean-Claude Izzo, like French footballer Zidane, is a native of Marseilles. He was born in Marseille in 1945. Because he was the son of Spanish and Italian immigrants, Izzo was streamed into vocational school where he trained to be a lathe operator. After serving in the military he returned to Marseilles where he eventually turned to writing. His books have been remarkably successful in France and have been the subject of films and t.v. shows. He died, at age 54, in Marseilles.

"Total Chaos" is the first volume in the aptly-named "Marseilles Trilogy". The second, Chourmo, and third, Solea (Marseilles Trilogy)complete the triloy. There are two primary characters in Total Chaos. The first is Fabio Montale. Montale is a cop. The child of immigrants, Montale had a hard life growing up on Marseilles' mean streets. He ran with a "bad-crowd" a crowd that included the two friends. Manu and Ugu, with whom he shared a bond cemented by petty thefts and days spent in an around the harbor. There is also the girl, Lole, who they all loved in one way or the other. Montale escaped his childhood, joined the army and ended up a cop. The others never left escaped the life they were born into. That life results in Manu and Ugu both being killed. Montale spends the rest of the book seeking answers to the question of who killed Manu and Ugu and why. He is a cop and that is what he does. Montale knows there is no justice in the criminal justice system. He knows that life is nasty brutish and short. He knows that, even as intimate as his feelings for his city are that generations of immigrants to Marseilles from around the world (particularly now from the Middle East) are treated in much the same way as the children of Sicilian immigrants used to be treated. Montale (and Izzo of course) is both cynical and fatalistic but, nevertheless, he plods on.

The other primary character is Marseilles itself. I think it fair to say that Izzo loved his native place. Izzo's love for Marseilles imbues Total Chaos almost to the point of consuming it. However, Izzo's feeling for his city does not preclude his viewing his love through rose-colored glasses. Izzo's love for Marseilles is not the puppy love that a teenager has for his first real girl friend. No, Izzo's feelings are more those of someone who has lasted through a long marriage, who has hurt and been hurt. He sees the flaws and the pain but still can see the beauty and the passion.

I very much enjoyed "Total Chaos". This is noir, Marseilles style. While Izzo is a bit more expansive in terms of setting out in print the thoughts and feelings of his characters than a Georges Simenon for example, he does not get excessively florid. He is terser than most and that is to his credit. Izzo also provides some nice atmospherics. His references to both food (its preparation and its consumption) and to music (Montale's taste in jazz and music in general s both provocative and scene-setting) add some very nice touches to the writing. At the end of the day I think a reader's feeling about Total Chaos will depend on whether or not they like the idea of a city playing a central role in the story. It worked for me. Izzo does a remarkably good job of giving the reader a sense of place. You can almost feel the dark streets and smell the aromas of the cafes in the harbor as you read the book. In that sense Total Chaos reminded me of Naguib Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street (Everyman's Library) which left me feeling I'd actually been to the alleys in Cairo Mahouz wrote about with such passion. Comparing any writer to Mahfouz is higih praise.

Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
Superb trilogy  Jul 9, 2007
Total Chaos is the first installment of the Marseilles Trilogy and is the best. Izzo's storytelling of immigration's impact to Marseilles is just spot on.

Hats off to Howard Curtis for his flawless translation evident in the fluidity of all three books.

Makes you wish Izzo were still alive to write more of these.
Gritty noir with a sentimental twist  Oct 17, 2006
You want gritty noir with a sentimental twist? You've got it! This is the first volume in a masterful trilogy by French author Jean-Claude Izzo (unfortunately deceased). Taking place in and around Marseilles this story involves a retired cop, French mafia, North African immigrants and more. The main character, the retired cop Fabio Montale himself the son of Italian immigrants, has to deal with the death of a friend as well as unresolved childhood issues. While doing this he introduces us to Marseilles and we can almost smell the sea, the "pistou" soup and the mandatory pastis apéritif. The feelings are strong, the story is hard and people are hurt. If you like this book keep an eye out for volumes 2 and 3 of the trilogy which have now been published in English. The French title: "Total Khéops" comes from a Marseilles rap group called IAM. Highly recommended!
Atmospheric but uncompelling  May 9, 2006
Picked this up on the strength of the reviews and in light of a general interest in police procedurals. The fact that the book was written by a French author and set in Marseilles (a city that in my experience is so unique that it almost qualifies as a country of its own) were added bonuses.

Given the expectations set by the reviews, I would characterize my reaction to the novel as muted and somewhat disappointed.

On the positive side, the prose is spare (reminiscent of Alan Furst in some ways, as a point of comparison) and strong, and the atmospherics are powerful. The author is in his element in terms of bringing to life the feel and specifics of Marseilles, and were the reader to be satisfied with Marseilles as the end all and be all purpose of the novel, he or she would leave very satisfied.

Unfortunately, when it comes to characterization of the personalities in the book, the spareness of the prose that is an asset elsewhere becomes a hindrance. Our protagonist is conflicted and taciturn; that's about it. He isn't brushed out fully, which in many novels is fine, but here, where his motivations and single minded purpose carry the plot of the novel, the unfinished portrait doesn't resonate properly with his actions.

In terms of plot, we have a police officer seeking revenge for the murder of two of his childhood friends who long ago turned into hoods, and as the novel opens meet or have recently met their demise. Alone aside from several women with whom he has various dalliances, our police officer negotiates his way towards his revenge through the Arab underworld, the mafia, and a crooked police department. The stage and background of the novel are powerful and tangible; the protagonist and the plot he follows less so.

Of interest to this reader in particular is the author's focus on the racism within French society, and Marseilles in particular. Themes of immigration and assimilation (successful and not) run through the proceedings. The disaffection of the Arab underclass is particularly compelling, and in light of the events last summer in France, are quite interesting and apropos in today's world.

This is the first of a trilogy. Interesting but not entirely compelling. Don't know if I'll pick up number 2.

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