cover image Sundays in August

Sundays in August

Patrick Modiano, trans. from the French by Damion Searls. Yale Univ., $16 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-0-300-22333-0

Nobel Prize–winner Modiano (Suspended Sentences) does more with less in this subtle and haunting noir. He places the reader in uncertain terrain from the outset, as his unnamed narrator has an unexpected encounter in Nice with a man he hates and hasn’t seen in seven years, Frédéric Villecourt. Villecourt is now selling coats and jackets on the street, and the pair have an enigmatic conversation about a woman named Sylvia, who lied to the narrator about having married Villecourt. After they part, the narrator, whose ambitions to be a successful photographer have resulted in a dead-end job running a garage that’s about to go out of business, is curious about Villecourt, but subsequent efforts to locate him are fruitless. Flashbacks incrementally reveal something of the narrator’s past with Sylvia and their attempts to sell a diamond necklace known as the Southern Cross that they somehow got hold of. Modiano makes the reader work to put the puzzle pieces in order, while maintaining a convincing atmosphere of tension and dread. [em](Aug.) [/em]