Mediterranean Noir…You take it black, right?

Of course you may already be a fan of noir, America Noir, from James M. Cain to Elmore Leonard. Corruption is worldwide, global, international, prevalent – it is everywhere. There’s a sub-genre of noir on the rise, due largely to publisher Europa Editions, and it gives you a glimpse of the gritty underbelly of European corruption through Mediterranean Noir.

Set in those enticing locales throughout Europe, Mediterranean Noir delivers the same fatalistic viewpoint that American Noir does. The same pessimism, the same sex, the same crime. What’s so compelling is the contrast between the decadent lifestyle of the Mediterranean – the appreciation of cuisine, good wine, music, the idyllic weather and the respect for loyalty – with the government corruption, the racial dissension and the detached portrayal of sexual content. A great example of this is in Jean-Claude Izzo’s The Lost Sailors. Provocative, imbued with an unwritten history that has played out in all of the character’s destinies and full of desperate soul searching, The Lost Sailors is a tribute to Marseilles, the city he loved.

Izzo is the father of Mediterranean Noir and, although died in 2000, he is widely read in Europe.

In The Lost Sailors, you’ve got three sailors aboard a ship stuck in the port of Marseilles. You’ve got Captain Abdul Aziz, a man married to the sea and dedicated to his men but longing for his wife, you’ve got Diamantis, his second in command who scours every corner of Marseilles in search of his long lost love, and you’ve got Nedim, a young sailor waiting for money so he can go home. Diamantis and Aziz have a tight and tense relationship that plays itself out like the rhythm of the sea. Nedim, who just wants to find a girl for the night and then find his way back home to Turkey. Add a couple of prostitutes and a murder, and you got yourself a damn good Mediterranean Noir novel.

The characters are rich in detail, which combined with the well-crafted plot, you are as driven to finish the book as the characters are to find what they need – love, purpose, and an answer.

The Mediterranean is neutral in the Slavonic languages, and in Latin. It’s masculine in Italian. Feminine in French. Sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine in Spanish. It has two masculine names in Arabic. And Greek has many names for it, in different genders…But I think the Mediterranean is like a body inside us. And what our right hand does, our left hand can’t ignore.

-Captain Abdul Aziz
Howard Curtis does an excellent job with the translation, as he did with Izzo’s Marseilles Trilogy. If you’re a fan of noir, do yourself a favor and read some of Izzo’s work. You won’t regret it.

The Lost Sailors
By Jean-Claude Izzo
Translated by Howard Curtis
Europa Editions
256 pages
ISBN: 978-1-933372-35-8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *