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Marseille Mix – withstanding the gaze by William Firebrace

Submitted by on December 4, 2008 – 2:16 pm

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Aboutwithstanding the gaze – a germanic literary diversion.  Fourth in a series of 6 eBooks and StoryCubes published weekly, feuilleton style.

Marseille Mix
My first encounters with Marseille were in the cinema, in films such as The French ConnectionLa Ville est Tranquille and Taxi. It seemed a strange place, dangerous, not conventionally beautiful, down at heel, but somehow attractive. I decided on the basis of this cinematic introduction that this was the city I wished to write about – exactly because it did not coincide in any way with what I considered to be a city, because of its defiance.

Marseille is an irreconcilable mix – of different cultures, different societies, different ideas about the planning, different images, different gastronomies. It evokes fantasy as much as objectivity. As a city it inspires dislike and fear but also pride and love.

It is not possible to investigate this city in a linear, coherent fashion, since the city is in no way linear or coherent.

Marseille Mix contains various methods of writing – narrative, essay, recipe, lists, conversations, chance remarks, and others. Sometimes it flows easily enough, sometimes it accepts the need for contradiction, disruption, lack of resolution. Of course the book is not really exactly like the city – it is a personal investigation, with its own points of view.

Published November 2008 in the Diffusion Transformations Series

William Firebrace is an architect, and teaches in various London schools of architecture. He has published one book, Things Worth Seeing (Black Dog 2001), has completed a second, Awake, and is now finishing a third, Marseille Mix, which should appear in 2009.
Unit 2, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Tags: Marseille, urbanism, Walter Benjamin, William Firebrace

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