Within a few paragraphs Jean-Claude Izzo (1945-2000) not only analyzes his main character’s connection to the sea by being by the sea but, more importantly, he defines how his generation perceived the maritime travel. The maritime journey even in its shortest and most approachable form – by a wooden boat near the coast – constitutes for the writer a way out. The sea is assigned various uses and representations. It is a provider, a place to calm, settings that help you think while traveling by a ship – or even listening to relevant stories, a gangway.
There’s nothing more pleasant, when you have nothing to do, than to have a snack in the morning and sit looking at the sea.
As a snack, Fonfon had made an anchovy purée, which he’d just taken out of the oven. I’d come back from fishing and was feeling happy. I’d caught a fine bass, four bream and a dozen mullet. The anchovy purée added to my happiness. I’ve been happy with simple things.
I opened a bottle of Saint-Cannat rosé. The quality of Provençal rosés was getting better every year. We drank, to our appetite. The wine, from the Commanderie de la Bargemone, was delicious. Beneath your tongue you could feel the warm sun on the low slopes of the Trevarese. Fonfon winked at me, and we started dipping slices of bread in the anchovy purée, seasoned with pepper and chopped garlic. My stomach was aroused at the first mouthful.
“God, that’s good!”
“You said it.”
I was all you could say. One more word would have been one word too many. We ate without talking. Gazing out over the surface of the sea. A beautiful autumn sea, dark blue, almost velvety. I never tired of it. I was constantly surprised by the attraction it had over me, the way it called me. I’d never been a sailor or a traveler. I’d had dreams, adolescent dreams, of sailing out there, beyond the horizon. But I’d never gone very far. Except once. To the Red Sea. A long time ago.
I was nearly forty-five, and like many people in Marseilles I liked stories of travel more than travel itself. I couldn’t see myself taking a plane to Mexico City, Saigon, or Buenos Aires. I belonged to a generation to which travel meant something very particular. Liners, freighters. Navigation. The rhythm of the sea. Ports. A gangway thrown on the quay, the intoxication of new smells, unknown faces.
I was content to take my boat, the Tremolino, with its pointed stern, out beyond Ile Maire and the Riou archipelago, and fish for a few hours, wrapped in the silence of the sea. I didn’t have anything else to do. Go fishing, when the mood took me. Or play belotebetween three and four. Or a game of pétanque with aperitifs as the stake.
Jean-Claude Izzo, Chourmo, New York: Europa Editions, 2006, trans. by Howard Curtis, pp. 23-24