Patrick Modiano

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Patrick Modiano
Patrick Modiano 6 dec 2014 - 22.jpg
Patrick Modiano in Stockholm during the Swedish Academy's press conference on 6 December 2014.
Born Jean Patrick Modiano
(1945-07-30) 30 July 1945 (age 69)
Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Occupation Novelist
Language French
Nationality France
Genre Novels
Notable awards

Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française (1972)
Prix Goncourt (1978)
Prix mondial Cino Del Duca (2010)

Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2012)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2014)
Spouse Dominique Zehrfuss
Children Zina Modiano
Marie Modiano

Jean Patrick Modiano (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɑ̃ paˈtʁik ˌmɔdjaˈno]; born 30 July 1945) is a French novelist and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. He previously won the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for lifetime achievement, the 1978 Prix Goncourt for Rue des boutiques obscures, and the 1972 Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française for Les Boulevards de ceinture. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have been celebrated in and around France,[1] though only a few[quantify] were in circulation in English when he was awarded the Nobel Prize.[citation needed]

Early and personal life[edit]

Jean Patrick Modiano was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France, on July 30, 1945. His father, Albert Modiano (1912–77, born in Paris), was of Jewish origin, on his father's side descended from a Sephardic family of Salonica.[2] His mother, Louisa Colpijn, was a Belgian (Flemish) actress also known as Louisa Colpeyn.[3] Modiano's parents met in occupied Paris during World War II and began their relationship semi-clandestinely. His father had refused to wear the star of David and did not turn himself in when Paris Jews were rounded up for deportation to Nazi concentration camps; he spent the war doing business on the black market and hanging around with the Gestapo stationed on the Rue Lauriston.[4]

Modiano's childhood took place in a unique atmosphere. He was first brought up by his maternal grandparents who taught him Flemish, his first language.[5] The absence of his father, and frequently also of his mother, on tour, brought him closer to his brother, Rudy, who died of a disease at age 10 (the works of Patrick Modiano from 1967 to 1982 are dedicated to him). Recalling this tragic period in his famed memoir Un Pedigree (2005), he said: "I couldn't write an autobiography, that's why I called it a 'pedigree': It's a book less on what I did than on what others, mainly my parents, did to me."[6]

Modiano studied at the École du Montcel primary school in Jouy-en-Josas, at the Collège Saint-Joseph de Thônes in Haute-Savoie, and then at the Lycée Henri-IV high school in Paris. While he was at Henri-IV, he took geometry lessons from writer Raymond Queneau, who was a friend of Modiano's mother. He received his baccalauréat in Annecy but did not continue his higher education.

Modiano married Dominique Zehrfuss in 1970. In a 2003 interview with Elle she said: "I have a catastrophic souvenir of the day of our marriage. It rained. A real nightmare. Our groomsmen were Queneau, who had mentored Patrick since his adolescence, and Malraux, a friend of my father. They started to argue about Dubuffet, and it was like we were watching a tennis match! That said, it would have been funny to have some photos, but the only person who had a camera forgot to bring the film. There is only one photo remaining of us, from behind and under an umbrella!"[7] Their marriage produced two daughters, Zina (1974) and Marie (1978).

Writing career[edit]

His meeting with Queneau, author of Zazie dans le métro, was crucial. It was Queneau who introduced Modiano to the literary world, giving him the opportunity to attend a cocktail party thrown by his future publisher Éditions Gallimard. In 1968 he published his first book La Place de l'étoile, a wartime novel about a Jewish collaborator, after having read the manuscript to Queneau. The novel displeased his father so much that he tried to buy all existing copies of the book. Earlier while stranded in Paris during the Algerian war, Modiano had asked his father for a little financial assistance, but his father called the police.

The 2010 release of the German translation of La Place de l'Étoile won Modiano the German Preis der SWR-Bestenliste (Prize of the Southwest Radio Best-of List) from the Südwestrundfunk radio station, which hailed the book as a major Post-Holocaust work.[8] La Place de l'Étoile has not yet been published in English.

In 1973, Modiano co-wrote the screenplay of Lacombe, Lucien, a film directed by Louis Malle which focuses on the involvement of a boy in the "French Gestapo" after being denied admission to the French Resistance. The film caused controversy due to the lack of justification of the main character's political involvement.

Modiano's novels all delve into the puzzle of identity, of how one can track evidence of one's existence through the traces of the past. Obsessed with the troubled and shameful period of the Occupation—during which his father had allegedly engaged in some shady dealings—Modiano returns to this theme in all of his novels, book after book building a remarkably homogeneous work. "After each novel, I have the impression that I have cleared it all away," he says. "But I know I'll come back over and over again to tiny details, little things that are part of what I am. In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born." He writes constantly about the city of Paris, describing the evolution of its streets, its habits and its people.[6]

All of Modiano's works are written from a place of "mania." In Rue des Boutiques Obscures (Missing Person), the protagonist suffers from amnesia and travels from Polynesia to Rome in an attempt to reconnect with his past. The novel addresses the never-ending search for identity in a world where "the sand holds the traces of our footsteps but a few moments." In Du Plus Loin de l'Oubli (Out of the Dark), the narrator recalls his shadowy love affair in the 1960s with an enigmatic woman. Fifteen years after their breakup, they meet again, but she has changed her name and denies their past. What is real and what is not remain to be seen in the dreamlike novel that typifies Modiano's obsessions and elegiac prose.[6]

The theme of memory is most clearly at play in Dora Bruder (entitled The Search Warrant in some English-language translations). Dora Bruder is a literary hybrid, fusing together several genres — biography, autobiography, detective novel — to tell the history of its title character, a 15-year-old daughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who, after running away from the safety of the convent that was hiding her, ends up being deported to Auschwitz. As Modiano explains in the opening of his novel, he first became interested in Dora's story when he came across her name in a missing persons headline in a December 1941 edition of the French newspaper Paris Soir. Prompted by his own passion for the past, Modiano went to the listed address, and from there began his investigation, his search for memories.[9] He wrote by piecing together newspaper cuttings, vague testimonies and old telephone directories, looking at outsider living on the outskirts of the city. Regarding Dora Bruder, he wrote: "I shall never know how she spent her days, where she hid, in whose company she passed the winter months of her first escape, or the few weeks of spring when she escaped for the second time. That is her secret." Modiano’s quiet, austere novels, which also include Night Moves, read like "compassionate, regretful thrillers."[10]

Modiano's 2007 novel Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue is set in 1960s Paris where a group of people, including a detective of shady background, wonder what is or was the matter with a certain young woman called Louki, who, we are told on the last page, ended her life by thowing herself out a window. Even though there are plenty of geographical details, the reader is left with a sense of vagueness as to what happened and when.[11] For the first time throughout his oeuvre,[12] Modiano uses various narrators who relate from their point of view what they think they know about the woman. In the third of five chapters, the protagonist herself relates episodes from her life but she remains difficult to grasp. The author creates a number of instabilities on various levels of his text and this signifies how literary figures can(not) be created. The protagonist obviously evades being made relatable.[13]

In Modiano's 26th book L'Horizon (2011), the narrator, Jean Bosmans, a fragile man pursued by his mother's ghost, dwells on his youth and the people he has lost. Among them is the enigmatic Margaret Le Coz, a young woman he met and fell in love with in the 1960s. The two loners spent several weeks wandering the winding streets of a now long-forgotten Paris, fleeing a phantom menace. One day, however, without notice, Margaret boarded a train and vanished into the void—but not from Jean's memory. Forty years later, he is now ready to look for his vanished love. The novel not only epitomizes Modiano's style and concerns but also marks a new step in his personal quest, after a mysterious walkabout in Berlin. "The city is my age," he says, also describing Berlin which is almost a completely new city rebuilt from the ashes of war. "Its long, geometric avenues still bear the marks of history. But if you look at it right, you can still spot ancient wastelands beneath the concrete. These are the very roots of my generation." Besson remarks that such symbolic roots gave rise, over the years, "to one of the most wonderful trees in French literature."[6]

Some of Modiano’s works have been translated into English, among them Les boulevards de ceinture (1972; Ring Roads : A Novel, 1974), Villa Triste (1975; Villa Triste, 1977), Quartier perdu (1984; A Trace of Malice, 1988) and Voyage de noces (1990; Honeymoon, 1992). His latest work is the novel Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier (2014). Modiano has also written children’s books.[14]

Awards[edit]

Modiano won the Prix Goncourt in 1978 for his novel Rue des boutiques obscures (Missing Person) and the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française in 1972 for Les Boulevards de ceinture. He also won the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for his lifetime achievement in 2010, and the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

Called the "Marcel Proust of our time",[15] he won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation".[16][17] He heard the news via a mobile phone call from his daughter while walking through Paris, "just next to the Jardin du Luxembourg".[18] The Nobel came as unexpected, even to those most familiar with his work in the Anglo-American world.[19][20] The puzzlement could have to do with the fact that despite Modiano's prolific output less than a dozen of his works had been translated into English, several of which were even out of print before the announcement of the prize. The award-winning Missing Person had sold just 2,425 copies in the US prior to the Nobel.[15] Even the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Peter Englund, noted that many people outside of France would likely be unfamiliar with Modiano and his work. “He is well-known in France, but not anywhere else,” he said in a post-announcement interview.[21]

Works[edit]

  • (1968) La Place de l'étoile
  • (1969) La Ronde de nuit; English translation: Night Rounds (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971)
  • (1972) Les Boulevards de ceinture; English translation: Ring Roads (London: Gollancz, 1974)
  • (1974) Lacombe, Lucien; screenplay co-written with Louis Malle; English translation: Lacombe, Lucien: The Complete Scenario of the Film (New York: Viking, 1975)
  • (1975) Villa Triste
  • (1977) Livret de famille
  • (1978) Rue des Boutiques obscures; English translation: Missing Person (London: Jonathan Cape, 1980)
  • (1981) Une jeunesse
  • (1981) Memory Lane (drawings by Pierre Le-Tan)
  • (1982) De si braves garçons
  • (1984) Quartier Perdu; English translation: A Trace of Malice (Henley-on-Thames: Aidan Ellis, 1988)
  • (1986) Dimanches d'août
  • (1988) Catherine Certitude (illustrated by Sempé); English translation: Catherine Certitude (Boston: David R. Godine, 2000)
  • (1988) Remise de peine
  • (1989) Vestiaire de l'enfance
  • (1990) Voyage de noces; English translation: Honeymoon (London: Harvill / HarperCollins, 1992)
  • (1991) Fleurs de ruine
  • (1992) Un cirque passe
  • (1993) Chien de printemps
  • (1995) Du plus loin de l'oubli; English translation: Out of the Dark (Lincoln: Bison Books / University of Nebraska Press, 1998)
  • (1997) Dora Bruder; English translations: Dora Bruder (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), The Search Warrant (London: Random House / Boston: Harvill Press, 2000)
  • (1999) Des inconnues
  • (2001) La Petite Bijou
  • (2003) Accident nocturne
  • (2004) Un pedigree
  • (2007) Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue
  • (2010) L'Horizon
  • (2012) L'Herbe de nuit
  • (2014) Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Filmography[edit]

Screenplays

Adaptations of his novels

  • Une jeunesse (from the novel of same title) directed by Moshé Mizrahi, 1983
  • Le parfum d'Yvonne (from the novel Villa Triste) directed by Patrice Leconte, 1994
  • Te quiero de Manuel Poirier (from the novel Dimanches d'août), 2001
  • Charell de Mikhael Hers, moyen-métrage (from the novel De si braves garçons), 2006

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bas Wohlert, Camille (9 October 2014). "Patrick Modiano of France wins Nobel Literature Prize". The Rappler. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Mario Modiano: Hamehune Modillano. The genealogical story of the Modiano family from 1570 to our days (pdf, 360 pages), www.themodianos.gr + M. Modiano, Athens 2000
  3. ^ "Ten Things to Know About Patrick Modiano". The Local, 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Alexandra (9 October 2014). "Patrick Modiano's Postwar World". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Brown, Mark; Kim Willsher and Alison Flood (9 October 2014). "Nobel prize winner Patrick Modiano hailed as modern Marcel Proust". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Julien Bisson. "Patrick Modiano: Literary Giant" France Today, 15 November 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  7. ^ Elle, 6 October 2003.
  8. ^ 2010: Patrick Modiano: "Place de l‘Étoile" (in German)
  9. ^ "This passage perfectly captures Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's obsession with memory". Vox. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Claire Armitstead, Alison Flood and Marta Bausells (9 October 2014). "Patrick Modiano wins the Nobel prize in literature 2014 – as it happened". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Henri Astier: "Patrick Modiano – Dans le Cafe de la jeunesse perdue", in: The Times Literary Supplement, No. 5492 (2008):32, 4 July 2008
  12. ^ Colin Nettelbeck: "Comme l'eau vive: mémoire et revenance dans Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue (2007)", in: Modiano, ou, Les intermittences de la mémoire, edited by Anne-Yvonne Julien and Bruno Blanckeman, Table of contents (pdf), Hermann, Paris 2010, ISBN 978-2-7056-6954-6, pp. 391–412.
  13. ^ Jurate Kaminskas: "Traces, traces et figures: Dans le cafe de la jeunesse perdue de Patrick Modiano", in: French Cultural Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4 (November 2012):350–357 Abstract.
  14. ^ "Bio-bibliography". nobelprize.org. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Alter, Alexandra; Dan Bilefsky (9 October 2014). "Patrick Modiano, a Modern 'Proust,' Is Awarded Nobel in Literature". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  16. ^ Niklas Pollard and Alistair Scrutton. "Patrick Modiano, French Sephardic Novelist, Wins Nobel for Literature", Forward, 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  17. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014". Nobelprize. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  18. ^ "Interview with Patrick Modiano". Nobelprize. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  19. ^ Thomson, Rupert (9 October 2014). "Patrick Modiano: an appreciation of the Nobel prize in literature winner". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Thomson, Rupert (6 May 2011). "Book Of A Lifetime: Honeymoon, By Patrick Modiano". The Independent. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  21. ^ Gibson, Megan (9 October 2014). "Why You Haven't Heard of Patrick Modiano, Winner of the Nobel in Literature". Time Magazine. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]