Sailors can be more lost on land than they ever were at sea, suggests this moody drama from French novelist Izzo (Solea, 2007, etc.).
When an aging freighter is impounded in Marseilles, its captain and crew are forced to choose. Most of the sailors accept a modest settlement and either head toward further adventures or return to homes long left behind. Three remain aboard the Aldebaran. Captain Abdul Aziz still feels guilty about failing in his obligation to a previous ship. For first mate Diamantis, “the sea was his life…the only place he felt free.” Radio operator Nedim intended to leave, but he blew his money on a night of carousing. As this leisurely but entrancing human drama unravels, other motives for their inertia are revealed. Captain Aziz weighs his marriage, as his long-suffering wife waits for him to decide between her and the sea. Diamantis wonders about the first love he abandoned in this very port, and Nedim is haunted by memories of an affair cut short by his brutal actions. For these men, the sea is a comfortable purgatory: “Waiting didn’t exist. Only leaving had any meaning. Leaving and coming back.” To be on land means facing up to past actions and unresolved conflicts avoided for years. The author masterfully depicts his native Marseilles’ sensuous diversity, from down-at-the-heels cafés to the increasingly ritzy and snobbish seaside. His characters are equally detailed, their sad stories revealed inch by inch through whiskey-fueled conversations and casual shore-side liaisons.
Slow-building drama with a tragic denouement as inevitable and deadly as any storm at sea.