Throughout all his novels except the novel ‘Un Pedigree’, Patrick Modiano has tried with some sort of inquisitive mind to keep himself in a position of surrogate where he discovers himself now and then through different named and unnamed protagonists with anti-Semitic consciousness in different places with different personalities like Sigmund Freud, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Charlie Chaplin, Prussian Immanuel Kant, Danish Søren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Satre, Marcel Proust, Hitler, etc, along with fictional characters.
Memory, oblivion, identity, and guilt saturated with subjective elements play an important role in Patrick Modiano’s literary works that center around the city of Paris haunted by the phantoms of the Jewish individuals. His stories are often developed as per subjective events that occurred even before his birth after the German occupation of France during World War II. At times, Patrick Modiano creates themes for his stories on the basis of his own experience, interviews, newspaper articles, or his own notes. To realize how much the thoughts relating to the painful experience of the panic-stricken Jewish lives due to the German occupation came to rankle in Modiano’s mind from his very childhood the readers have to peruse his simple writings laden with deep insights echoing from his first novel to the last one. However, like scratching the surface to observe the inner part of any land we, as his readers, have to review his familial and economical backgrounds to observe his literary psyche the foundation of which depends on both physical and psychical factors. Especially in Pedigree few traits of his parents are to be noted.
Modiano’s family sustained the status of petite bourgeoisie socioeconomically until 1947.But after 1947 the family slipped into what Modiano refers to in Pedigree as “splendid poverty.” Even the family members were sometimes driven to committing such crime as theft because of their low-class standing and suspected identity; thus resulting in frequently nearly destitute. Modiano himself admits that after stealing books from both private individuals and libraries he sells those to second-hand book dealers; even his mother did the same crime.
In Pedigree Modiano mentions that his mother is “a pretty girl with an arid heart.” In order to pursue a theatrical career through acting in minor plays throughout Europe she abandoned even the family and left Modiano to the care of her friends or relatives ; whereas, there never exists a familial tie between Modiano and his father who continually kept him in schools in and out of Paris whenever he could become solvent and wrung out a living through shady deals with black marketers and gangsters of the underworld. Being a petty criminal he failed to register with the Vichy authorities as a Jew before the war and lived a clandestine life on the black market under the German occupation. He was picked up in a police raid in 1943 but avoided deportation, in an episode that neither Modiano nor any of his wartime-obsessed narrators has managed fully to elucidate.
Actually Modiano’s parents were “lost butterflies” thrown together during a storm. In episodes detailed in both Suspended Sentences(2014/Remise de peine,1988) and Such Fine Boys (2017/De si braves garcons,1982) it’s observed that the boys are treated like unwanted pets. Modiano himself says, “I am a dog who pretends to have a pedigree.” and lives most of his time with his friends and other boarders of different schools.
More than four prolific decades Modiano has written most of the novels. In his narratives he uses mostly first-person and often there are characters of dreamy young man-types left to their own devices. Generally they wander around Paris amid criminal types while trying to piece together the murky past of their near and dear ones.
Evidently, his novels can be categorized as autobiographical to some extent. A common phenomenon that is very apparent in his presenting central characters to be French origin by birth in 1945 seems to be a bit of a give-away. But his readers don’t care or intend to know whether his stories are based on fact or not. He is artistically skilled enough to maintain an indistinct distance between the author and the narrator. He does shield himself by making his readers fall into confusion: The “I” is perhaps the author himself.
In fact, of French literary genii Modiano is the most secretive. He never writes in newspapers, and has been uncomfortable talking about himself, or anything else in his rare interviews. His restrained persona helps him create the mystique of his literary works, which raise more questions than answers.
The act of abandonment as one of the central metaphors in Modiano’s literary works is to be considered in the Decalogy. The implications — of abandoning, of being forlorn, of vanishing — are profound. The act of being forsaken creates a pervasive disequilibrium in our life: as we suddenly find ourselves unbalanced, everything seems to be topsy-turvy. Whether the act of being forlorn is physical or emotional doesn’t matter, but it does matter whether it is self-inflicted or other-inflicted. Such act of abandonment leaves a psychic scar that generates agitation, anxiety, and anomaly— the three factors mould the behavioural patterns of all characters in Modiano’s Decalogy.