A drifter escapes to Marseilles in this dark work from Izzo (The Lost Sailors, 2007, etc.).
When drifter Rico’s entertaining friend Titi, who recited tales from books long gone, dies of exposure in a Paris metro, Rico decides he must flee the cold city. Although leaving Paris means finally giving up on his unfaithful ex-wife and beloved son, he hopes to revive a happier relationship with the long-lost Lea, whom he left in Marseilles before betrayal, bad luck and his own rampant alcoholism drove him into the street. Along the way, he meets up with other drifters, including the dashing but dangerous Dédé and the childlike Félix. Rico quickly finds himself torn between bitter and sweet memories. These memories—of Lea, of his ill-fated marriage to the social-climbing Sophie, of fellow alcoholic Julie—reveal Rico’s history and come to seem as real as his waking adventures, particularly as the booze and a worsening respiratory illness take their toll. When he recalls Titi, Rico’s tale resembles a French Midnight Cowboy, as memories and fantasies both begin to seem equally real. Rico’s pressing needs for shelter, food and alcohol create an awful momentum, driving him toward the inevitable end. Much of this short book is relayed either in dialogue form or as Rico’s interior monologue. Only the final section, told in the first person by a teenaged urchin, disrupts the intimacy.
Difficult but rewarding reading that offers an unflinching look at a social problem, related through the journey of one sad man.