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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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mysteries and urban-noir and further examples Modiano's emerging style

After the narrator (Patrick Modiano's Ring Roads, 1972), an unnamed cop who is spying on a group of three men, one of whom his estranged father (and who does not recognize his son) leaves the men after a long night's eating and drinking (he's abstemious but has a few shots to keep up), he writes out some notes of what he's learned or observed about the men (they're obviously racketeers in collusion with the Nazis who are occupying France, time is the early 1940s); he gives a concise description of each of the men (plus two women on the scene) but when he comes to his father he says he has no observations or knowledge to share but that adds, oddly, I'll come up with something. Of course Modiano is always playing around on the borders of narrative convention: as the narrator proceeds to describe his early years w/ his father we have to think, well, is this real? or made up? But of course it's a novel, so everything is "made up" and nothing is "real." And so on. I don't think this narrative benefits at all from such whimsy - and I think Modiano moved away from these postmodern affectations in his later work, thankfully. In any event, he describes the time that the young man - then a teenager - spent with his father in Paris: abandoned by parents to live w/ a nasty family while attending the equivalent of high school (or college?) - a themne Modiano will come back to many times, father shows up unexpectedly, son barely knows him at all, father takes son under his care, over next few years they move frequently within Paris, father has some kind of underworld connections (as all this goes on we realize that, if there is any "truth" to this narrative material there is not a chance in the world that his father wouldn't recognize him a decade later), they spend some time examining the abandoned railroad line that circled Paris (a Ring Road, sort of), which his father has some vaguely conceived plan to develop - these explorations of Paris are the first true sign of the urban-noir style that Modiano will develop and perfect - and then for no clear reason father becomes reticent and actually tries to push son under an arriving Metro train. How could this be? What happened? Narrator is rescued, goes w/ father to police station where police pressure son to report his father, which he won't do, and then they leave. Motif of an accident and how that drives people apart, or together, and into mysterious realms, is another Modiano motif that will emerge in his later fiction.

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