I had read nothing of the 2014 Nobel prize winner’s work. I had seen him on the television in the 90’s and was aware of the difference between the flow of the language in his books and the relative difficulty I had seen in his verbal expression in the television interview.
So I began my initiation into Modiano by his prix Goncourt novel ‘Rue des Boutiques Obscures’ translated into English as Missing Person where his main character Guy Roland, an employee of a private detective agency, searches from the start to the end his own real identity which he forgot in an event unknown ten years earlier.
The book was written in the 70’s and the characters include elderly White Russians and their community as well as events in ex pat communities around the Second World War, this is a hunt, clue by clue for his elusive past. We are as unconvinced of the probability that he is on track as is he, we travel through Paris at the present day (the 70’s) learning about the different groups of people his contacts belong to, everyone ends up trying to help him, generous in their own ways and we are eventually sucked into thinking that out of the improbable comes the possible.
The book is about the quest we all lead for our own identities and the generosity we can inspire through openness.
Many of you may have read Modiano, I found this a compulsive read and will read more, perhaps his latest work ‘Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier’
First published in France in 1978 by Gallimard
Translated into English as Missing Person by Daniel Weissbort and published in 1980 by Jonathan Cape