Paul's Corner: So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood

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Patrick Modiano

The Nobel laureate in literature for 2014 is the amazingly talented Frenchman, Patrick Modiano.  Yale University Press and David Godine had published translations of a handful of his novels and stories and this fall Houghton Mifflin has published Euan Cameron’s translation of  so you don’t get lost in the neighborhood , his newest novel.

Novelist Jean Daragane is confronted by a stranger looking for a man whose name crops up in Daragane’s first novel written some twenty years ago.  Daragane does not remember the character, but the stranger is insistant.  The tone is spooky and Poe-like and all of the characters, including the stranger’s bizarre girlfriend are unreliable in their motives and their characters.  The nosy stranger sets Daragane on a search through his past uncovering first one then another forgotten event from his past.  A bit of a ghost story, a bit of an existentialist fable, a bit of a contemporary social satire.  It weighs in at a bantam weight 158 pages, designed to be read slowly and carefully, as fine a short novel as we have so far this year.  I’d love to see a clever French film-maker have a shot at it.  Until then I’ll read the rest of Modiano’s fiction hoping they are all as good as this eerie new novel.