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

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The most - or the least? - autobiographical of Modiano's novels?

Villa Trieste (1975) is either the most or the least autobiographical of Patrick Modiano's novels. On the one hand it's hard to believe that he could have led this strange double life as an 18-year-old: selling enough forged books to finance himself for a whole summer posing as a Russian count at a French casino-resort town near the Swiss border. The whole story of his summer romance w an aspiring movie star - who like him is of humble and perhaps shady origin but is posing as a socialite - feels like a plot, and a good one, not like one of modiano's tortured memoir-like novels tha dwell on the themes of wartime occupation, collaboration, and abandonment. One the other hand - there is something about this more conventional story that is more deeply felt and possibly "true" than any of his other works - his longing for the lost love, his childish plan to escape w her to America, which he hardly understands (dreaming of the "green grass of Wyoming"!) that makes me think this is a version of his own - and a universal - experience of youth. Note how the theme of escape across borders permeates modiano's fiction - but in this novel it's not about escape from political oppression and nazi occupation but about running away w the young beloved to start a new life - but he's too burdened (lugging and enormous amount of luggage including all the phone book she he carries - essential for what will become his literary career but also a metaphor for the dead weight of the past) while she is more "light" - uncommitted and ready to just disappear w another (older) man. Her complete disappearance from his life would have been quite possible at the time of this story (early 60s) - today our world is so much more connected that it's almost impossible to disappear.

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