So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood

Patrick Modiano, trans. from the French by Euan Cameron. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-544-63506-7
A quietly haunting search for the truth—or at least for the facts—of a postwar French childhood, Nobel-winner Modiano’s novel spins out over a summer in which “everything is uncertain.” The quest begins with a phone call: elderly, isolated writer Jean Daragane has lost his address book on a train, and a man named Gilles Ottolini has found it. Ottolini offers to return the book, but when the two meet in a Paris cafe, he demands information about one of the people listed: Guy Torstel, whose name also appears in one of Jean’s early novels, Le Noir de l’été (The Black of Summer). Although he cannot immediately remember Torstel and is reluctant to engage with the outside world (“in his solitude, he had never felt so light-hearted”), Jean nevertheless finds himself reading through a dossier about a 1951 murder case, given to him by Gilles’s girlfriend, Chantal Grippay, and encountering in these papers names that were once familiar to him, including Torstel. Modiano’s text rewards the patient reader—as this time-hopping account of coincidences, uncertainties, and echoes of a half-forgotten history unfolds, “the present and the past merge together,” building toward a powerful, memorable conclusion. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/06/2015
Release date: 09/15/2015
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-544-63507-4
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-544-81186-7
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