There are so many different ways in which to see the world. Sometimes, the differences between perspectives are so vast that it seems impossible that such a range of divergent emotional responses could have been provoked by the same thing or place. A simple country lane can be a beautiful holiday spot for walkers, a barely tolerable distance from home for commuters and a symbol of economic under-development for an ambitious local councillor. There is only one world but it is perpetually made and destroyed by the act of looking upon it. Wisdom lies not in the beauty or definition of one’s vision of the world but rather in one’s capacity for understanding that our vision of the world is not the only one that exists. That other perspectives are out there and that they all have a value, even the ones that are profoundly ugly and especially the ones that hurt us when we entertain them.
The first book of Jean-Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy is a book that is weighted down by the multitude of ways of looking at the French city of Marseilles. Unlike other works of crime or historical fiction with an iconic location, it is not a book that attempts to capture the spirit of a particular place and time. Instead, the book argues for both the absolute necessity and utter impossibility of ever completely grasping all of the different ways in which to see a particular place or person. The book’s French title Total Kheops — lamentably released in English under the title Total Chaos — takes its name from a track on the first solo album by Kheops, the DJ of the Marseilles-based Rap outfit IAM. ‘Total Kheops’ refers to a situation of impossible complexity. Un bordel total. A complete cluster fuck.