In this essential trilogy of novellas by the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, French author Patrick Modiano reaches back in time, opening the corridors of memory and exploring the mysteries to be encountered there. Each novella in the volume--Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin—represents a sterling example of the author’s originality and appeal, while Mark Polizzotti’s superb English-language translations capture not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.
Although originally published separately, Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists.
Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.
This set of three newly translated novellas from 2014 Nobel winner Modiano is propitious in timing and format: the collection s variety gives curious readers a broad introduction to a writer of purposefully narrow scope. Modiano has facetiously admitted to repeatedly writing the same book, usually a meditative investigation winding its ways through the City of Lights to illuminate, though never fully reveal, some lingering mystery from the period of Nazi Occupation. These three atmospheric novellas demonstrate the range of reading pleasure afforded by Modiano s approach and the dark romance of his Paris, a city in which adventure lay right around every street corner. Afterimage, the tautest, most affecting work, is a shadowy tale in which a young writer obsessively catalogs the work of a haunted photographer who did everything he could to be forgotten. The title novella, a child s eye view of the colorful gang of ex-circus performers and crooks who helped raise him, relates the boy s sense of wonder and confusion amid his charmed, if sordid, surroundings. In the slackest of the three, Flowers of Ruin, a sensationalist double suicide case occasions a murky investigation into the gangsters and collaborators who sported strange names and fake noble titles during the Occupation. Each first-person novella is also a portrait of the artist: as the protagonists pursue the faint traces of people and places that have disappeared, we witness a doggedly inquiring writer slowly emerging before our eyes.