cover image The Occupation Trilogy

The Occupation Trilogy

Patrick Modiano, trans. from the French by Frank Wynne. Bloomsbury, $18 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-63286-372-0

Nobel Prize%E2%80%93winner Modiano's first three novels, collected in this appealing omnibus, deftly demonstrate how the Parisian upper class functioned during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII. The novels%E2%80%94"La Place de l'Etoile" (appearing in English for the first time), "The Night Watch," and "Ring Roads"%E2%80%94focus on a class of people who often treated the German occupiers as a temporary nuisance and an opportunity to increase their wealth. Aristocratic but scholarly Schlemilovitch, the main character of "La Place de l'Etoile," is kicked out of his lycee, not for being Jewish but because he is a profligate lothario. An older gentleman named L%C3%A9vy-Vend%C3%B4me somehow convinces Schlemilovitch to procure young French girls from the countryside to be sold into the white slave trade. Schlemilovitch finds the girls, but can't bring himself to turn them over to L%C3%A9vy-Vend%C3%B4me. Schlemilovitch's Jewish identity eventually causes him difficulty when he runs afoul of officers who reach for their truncheons when they hear the word "culture." "Ring Roads" chronicles a son's desperate struggle to locate his father amid the war's chaotic aftermath. In "The Night Watch," Modiano exposes the corrupt and dangerous side of the French auxiliaries who joined the Gestapo, personified by the torturing inquisitors Monsieur Philibert and the Khedive. Modiano's sharp depiction of daily life and characters, both in and out of the patrician social class during the war, justly solidifies his reputation as one of the world's leading chroniclers of the human condition. (Sept.)