M Modiano is a Nobel Laureate. This short novel is about a man trying to reconstruct, using his writer's notebook, events that happened twenty years ago, when he became involved with a woman called Dannie and the other people he met at the Unic Hotel in paris: Paul Chastagnier, Duwelc, Gerard Marciano, Aghamouri and Georges. For some reason the police interviewed him at the time. He tries to understand what was going on.
Not a lot, to be honest. The first half of the book is very unstructured, as you might expect from someone trying to remember, and he visits and revisits episodes, such as the occasions that he and Dannie went to an empty old house in the countryside, or when they let themselves into to Dannie's old flat and helped themselves to things.
Half way through we learn that there was something sinister about the group, and that something terrible happened.
But even as we learn more about what happened, we never see anything very clearly. And still the narrator wanders around Paris and oscillates between the present and the past, and between reality and his vivid dreams.
There are some great moments:
- "Even though most of the buildings were still the same, they made you feel as if you were looking at a taxidermied dog." (p 7)
- "The present no longer counted, with its indistinguishable days in their doleful light, which must be the light of old age, when you feel as if you're merely living on." (p 38)
- "We live at the mercy of certain silences." (p 134)
But in the end I thought it rambled and I was never sufficiently interested in what had happened to care about the main character. He just seemed a little lost and confused. And I couldn't understand why these events that had happened to him long ago should bother him now.
September 2020;157 pages
Books and plays written by Nobel Laureates that I have reviewed in this blog include:
- Thomas Mann (1929) Death in Venice
- Hermann Hesse (1946) Steppenwolf and Demian
- Andre Gide (1947) The Immoralist and Strait is the Gate and The Vatican Cellars
- William Faulkner (1949) Sanctuary and As I Lay Dying
- Albert Camus (1957) The Plague and The Outsider and The Myth of Sisyphus and The Fall
- John Steinbeck (1962) Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row
- Samuel Beckett (1969) "The Expelled; The Calmative; The End & First Love" and "Waiting for Godot"
- Heinrich Boll (1972) The Train was on Time
- Saul Bellow (1976) "The Victim"
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982) Chronicle of a Death Foretold
- Doris Lessing (2007) The Golden Notebook
- Patrick Modiano (2014) The Black Notebook and In the Cafe of Lost Youth
- Kazuo Ishiguro (2017) When We Were Orphans and The Buried Giant