Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.... et quoi encore?
April 27, 2013 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I am traveling to France this summer and going to spend a few days in Marseille. What literature is based around Marseille that I should read between now and then? I'd like to read the stories and then see the places while I'm there. (Publications in French or English are ok.)

Bonus question: Other things to do/see in Marseille or Aix-en-Provence that don't have a literary reference.
posted by DoubleLune to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
 
According to Wikipedia, "Souvenirs d'enfance ("Childhood memories") is a series of autobiographical novels by French filmmaker and académicien, Marcel Pagnol (1895–1974). Souvenirs d'enfance comprises four volumes covering the years from his birth in 1895 to about 1910, which were spent in Marseille, with family summer holidays in La Treille, about ten kilometres (six miles) away."
posted by rjs at 11:40 AM on April 27, 2013


Especially since you're into Literature, don't miss the Goulard bookshop in Aix. Enormous French language bookstore. My wife and I spent hours in there.
posted by vacapinta at 11:48 AM on April 27, 2013


Joseph Conrad's "The Arrow of Gold: A Story Between Two Notes," is set in Marseilles during the Third Carlist War (last of a series of wars over Spanish royal succession, IIRC over the contentious idea that a woman could inherit sovereignty) in the 1870s. Been a while since I've read it, and none of the locations stood out to me. The protagonist is a sailor who helps smuggle goods for the Pretender forces, so there is some harbor/seaside stuff, but it's not a sailing novel like many of his works-- the voyages were just gaps in the story for the most part.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:53 AM on April 27, 2013


I don't know a specific book to recommend, but you could look for a biography of Zinedine Zidane, the former captain of the French soccer team - he grew up in Marseille, and has a pretty interesting story, being of Algerian background.

While you're there, try and visit Les Calanques in a boat tour.
posted by jacalata at 12:01 PM on April 27, 2013


Well, the classics Le château de ma mère and La gloire de mon père will do you up right. Anything by Marcel Pagnol, really.
posted by Liesl at 12:31 PM on April 27, 2013


Or another easy one is Pagnol's Marius, Fanny, Cesar--the scripts are easy to find or the 1930's movies are great.

OK, no more Pagnol now....
posted by bfields at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2013


Here you go!

Summary from that list:
Alphonse Daudet
Pagnol (already mentioned!)
Colette
Jean Giono
Paul Arene
Edith Wharton, who lived near Hyeres
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda traveled much of the Riviera, pretty sure F. Scott mentions Cassis somewhere, a beautiful place near Marseille very much worth visiting.

The others in the Wikipedia list are more specific to the area around Nice. The wiki also has a list of painters from the area; naturally Cezanne is a must-see, there's a museum in Aix.

Emile Zola and Blaise Cendrars also spent several years in Aix; I believe Cendrars included the setting in some of his writings.

A few musicians as well, including Bizet and Paule Maurice, who wrote a solo saxophone piece that's based on traditional Provencal music. (I performed it back when; one of my favorites.)

There's also haute couture in the area thanks to two household names: Emanuel Ungaro was born in Aix, and Christian Lacroix has boutiques in Arles and Aix.
posted by fraula at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2013


For lighter reads, Mary Stewart's Madam Will You Talk is a very good thriller set in the area. Guy Gavriel Kay's book Ysabel is also set in Aix, and is a very lovely modern-day fantasy with its roots in the mythic past of the area.
posted by PussKillian at 1:32 PM on April 27, 2013


If you like hard-boiled crime, Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy are very good.
posted by patricio at 2:24 AM on April 28, 2013


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