I’m sure most of you have seen this already, but . . . French novelist Patrick Modiano (b. 1945) has won the Nobel Prize in Literature (here is the official press release). The official citation is: “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation” (I don’t know what “life-world” is).

I happened to be reading up on Modiano yesterday because some folks at The World Literature Forum were talking about him. I checked my bookshelves to see if I had anything by him, especially since Godine publishes Missing Person and Honeymoon in their wonderful Verba Mundi series (they also publish his children’s book Catherine Certitude) (see here), but, alas, none are on my shelves. Really, other than stumbling on his name sporadically, I know little about him or his work.

Modiano Missing Person

Patrick Modiano published his debut novel, La Place de l’Étoile, in 1968, apparently with the encouragement of Raymond Queneau. He co-wrote the screenplay for Louis Malle’s 1974 film Lacombe Lucien (which you can get from The Criterion Collection (see here)). In 1978 he won the Prix Goncourt for Rue des boutiques obscures (translated into English as Missing Person). He’s written a couple dozen books (a few of them children’s books), and it looks like eight or so of those are available in English (with a collection of three of his novellas — Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin coming from Yale University Press next month in February of next year (though Ron Charles reports in The Washington Post that it is coming next month — perhaps they’re expediting it, though it’s not indicated on Amazon or their webpage update: their publicity page does say the book is coming on November 25 (here))).

Suspended Sentences

This is all coming from quick reading this morning, but it seems that Modiano’s work is highly concerned with the German occupation of France, though he was born after the war had ended. Sounds like there’s some fascinating work on identity in store for those venturing into Modiano.


For more, including links to articles and book reviews, check out M.A. Orthofer’s coverage on The Complete Review here.

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