Monday, December 28, 2015

So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patick Modiano

This novella is Modiano’s first publication since he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014. Translated into twenty-five languages, it allows readers to become familiar with the haunting style that I predict is Modiano’s signature. In 2016 I plan to read the novel Villa Trieste, and the screenplay Modiano collaborated on with the filmmaker Louis Malle, called Lacombe Lucien.

This is a novel of remembrance, forgetting, and foreboding, aligning the present with the past and the future. Modiano illuminates how the shadows of memory keep us from knowing who we are.
I cannot provide the reality of events,
I can only convey their shadow.
--STENDHAL, Modiano’s epigraph
Monsieur Jean Daragane was dozing in his study on a hot summer day in Paris when the insistent ring of his telephone shatters his isolation.
"Almost nothing. Like an insect bite that initially strikes you as very slight. At least that is what you tell yourself in a low voice so as to reassure yourself."
The caller is unknown to him, but has a “dreary and threatening voice.” Monsieur Daragne has lost his address book, and the caller has his name, address, and phone number. He wants to come over and question Mr. Daragne about a name he discovered in the book—a name possibly associated with a murder.

It was all so long ago. Monsieur Daragne is old now, and he no longer cares about the address book, nor the lives represented within it. The numbers he remembers by heart will ring in places where no one will answer any more. The person the caller asks Daragne about he claims not to remember, though the caller points out that Daragne’s first novel references a man by that name. The caller’s insistence starts a landslide of memories, once long hidden, uncovering a past Daragne had buried.

This is a book short enough to be read in an evening, and when I was browsing in a bookstore on a day before Christmas, I was so struck by the menace in the opening lines that I knew this would be my introduction to the work of Modiano. Cheers!

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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