Patrick Modi­ano; Mark Poliz­zot­ti, trans.

  • Review
July 14, 2015

Patrick Modi­ano won the Nobel Prize in 2014 for his fic­tion writ­ing. The appear­ance of any new work by a cel­e­brat­ed writer in Eng­lish is excit­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en that Modi­ano writes about grap­pling with what it means to live in France after World War II, which his Jew­ish father sur­vived by being use­ful in the black market.

Modiano’s fic­tion, which deals in a haunt­ing and ele­giac way with mem­o­ries of the places where he grew up and the per­sons miss­ing from them evokes what is not there and his grap­pling with find­ing his own place in the world.

Modiano’s only mem­oir, Pedi­gree, has just been trans­lat­ed to Eng­lish goes over the same sub­ject mat­ter as his fic­tion, but in a dif­fer­ent key. I’m writ­ing these pages the way one com­piles a report or a resume,” he writes, as doc­u­men­ta­tion and to have done with a life that wasn’t my own. It’s just a sim­ple film of deeds and facts. I have noth­ing to con­fess or elu­ci­date and I have no inter­est in soul-search­ing or self-reflec­tion. On the con­trary, the more obscure and mys­te­ri­ous things remained, the more inter­est­ing I found them.”

If one hasn’t yet read Modiano’s fic­tion, that is the best place to start to get to know his oeu­vre. If one is com­mit­ted to know­ing more about Modiano’s life, the mem­oir would be of inter­est, but since the author him­self sees the work as a report or a resume,” the fic­tion, where the writer goes after the obscure and mys­te­ri­ous in a much more mas­ter­ful and engag­ing fash­ion, is of greater interest.

Relat­ed Content:

Discussion Questions