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An enthralling reflection on the ways that family history influences identity, from the 2014 Nobel laureate for literature
A mix of autobiography and lucid invention, this highly personal work offers a deeply affecting exploration of the meaning of identity and pedigree. With his signature blend of candor, mystery, and bewitching elusiveness, Patrick Modiano weaves together a series of interlocking stories from his family history: his parents’ courtship in occupied Paris; a sinister hunting trip with his father; a chance friendship with the deposed King Farouk; a wistful affair with the daughter of a nightclub singer; and the author’s life as a new parent.
Modiano’s riveting vignettes, filled with a coterie of dubious characters—Nazi informants, collaborationist refugees, and black-market hustlers—capture the drama that consumed Paris during World War II and its aftermath. Written in tones ranging from tender nostalgia to the blunt cruelty of youth, this is a personal and revealing book that brings the enduring significance of a complicated past to life.
Originally published in France in 1977 and now translated by Polizzotti, this satisfying blend of memoir and novelization from Nobel laureate Modiano nimbly leaps through its discursive narrative. Divided into short, nonlinear vignettes capturing scenes from Modiano's life from childhood into fatherhood, there is a fascinating exploration of memory and culpability in these pages. A singular focus of Modiano's work is the decisions made by individuals during WWII and the ramifications of those decisions years later. There is the mysterious Henri Marignan, whose work in China predates his political work for the French government, leading to his eventual "official" disappearance, and his yearning to return. Modiano also includes immersive scenes of his parents there is his mother, an actress whose budding career is disrupted by the invasion of Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg, and his father, whom he accompanies on a weekend trip that has ulterior motives. Modiano meanders through his life, picking scenes that illustrate how he grapples with present-day concerns sparked by complicated memories about his family, his beliefs, and his identity. This slim, dynamic, but scattered novel should please his fans and provide a pleasant introduction for new readers.