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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, May 23, 2016

Modiano's most accessible novel

in the Cafe of Lost Youth is definitely Patrick Modiano's most accessible novel, a good place for readers new to him to start. Unlike some of his other novels - all of them short, about 100+ pp - the narrative structure is fairly simple and consistent - four sections, each with a different first--person narrator, that describe life among a group of students and hangers-on in a Left Bank cafe, probably in the 1970s?, w/ a focus on a young woman of mysterious background and, as we learn in the last of the 4 sections, her relationship with another habitue, Roland, who seems to be much like Modiano. The first 3 sections are contemporary accounts of the events - the woman (Louki)  leaving her husband, her account of her wayward childhood, the detective's account of his search for Louki - and the last section reflects back on the events for the present (novel written in 2007). The novel does have the familiar Modiano touches, in particular his obsession w/ cafes and nightclubs and w/ off-the-track Paris neighborhoods - in this novel he refers to them as "neutral zones," places where people can hide out and where time seems to stand still. Unlike other Modiano novels, there's no reference to the  Occupation, unless it's very indirect (at first I thought losing Louki was symbolic of the repressed memories of the Occupation, but I now think that's a stretch). Essentially, this narrative is a tragic romance, with a bit nostalgie de bou (do I have that right)?) - several poignant reflections about how neighborhoods have changed, the cafe where the narrator and Louki used to hang out is not a boutique leather shop - so typical of revitalized and sanitized and over-priced cities.

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