Unlike the protagonist of Modiano’s first novel ‘The place of the star’ , the protagonist with his role of an unnamed narrator in ‘The night watch’ translated by Patricia Wolf from the French novel ‘La ronde de nuit’ has been seen to survive his life looking and searching something hopeful in two opposite directions without being unconscious of his guilt and hypocrisy every moment. The more he has been on the run to escape the cruel destiny, the more he has been entangled with the dregs of the dark society where he always treads and dark characters such as Henri Normand alias le Khédive, Philibert, Frau Sultana, Baroness Lydia Stahl, Jean-Farouk de Méthode, Count Baruzzi, Ferdinand Poupet alias Paulo Hayakawa, etc.
Following the orders of his boss ‘le Khédive’ he starts struggling in occupied Paris to navigate and working as a double agent for a French gang that collaborates with the Nazi as well as a group of French resistance fighters. Bearing two aliases — the ‘Princesse de Lamballe’ in favour of a group of young patriots in a resistance cell and ‘Swing Troubadour’ in favour of murderers, blackmailers, police informants, prostitutes, and thieves — he has been playing a betrayal role of double agent in arresting patriotic Frenchmen and helping the collaborators for stealing from the houses of those who have fled the France. He wanted to burst into tears, to confess his tenuous position as double agent. He came to realise that he did not belong anywhere.
Not at the Rue Boisrobert nor at Cimarosa Square.On the Left Bank, among those brave boys of the CKS, he hid the fact that he was an informant; on the Right Bank, the title ‘Princesse de Lamballe’ meant he was in serious danger. Who exactly was he? His papers? A fake Nansen passport. Persona non grata everywhere. This parlous situation kept him from sleeping. No matter. In addition to his secondary job of ‘recuperating’ valuable objects, he acted as night watchman at No 3 bis.
The novel ‘Ring Roads’, translated by Caroline Hillier from the French novel ‘Les boulevards de ceinture’, tells the story of the protagonist’s quest for his father being stranded somehow in a strange commune in a village near the forest of Fotainebleau. In this novella it seems that everything else’s been blurred deliberately. It becomes clear only at the end of the novel that a son’s earnest search for his missing father is taking place during the war but the father has no recollection of his son and the memory of his father’s attempt to kill him by pushing him under the wheels of an underground train some ten years before the events of the novel begin seems to be unforgettable to the protagonist.
Engaged in the dark path from the very childhood and adolescence as he came to be, the protagonist was seen throughout the novelette to be acting as a person of self-justifying and self-governing. He did not have very happy memories as mentioned before. But after ten years, that sort of thing didn’t seem so important to him and he’d forgiven his father for the unfortunate incident in the George V metro. The protagonist has tried in every possible way to prove his father to be innocent. Even after having cruel memory of his father’s bad intention for pushing him at the train station he has tried all the time to remain glued to his father’s side amidst the criminals nurturing his latent hatred towards them
The protagonist having been imprisoned with the memories, full of pains, pangs and disgraceful anti-Semitic mentality within the ruthless reality of his adolescence and youth had to come back to the very place,l’auberge du Clos-Foucré in Seine-et Marne on the fringes of the Forest of Fontainebleau, where he starts recalling the events in which two contradictory memories—his father’s negligence towards his son, the protagonist and attempt to kill him by pushing him under the wheels of an underground train; whereas the protagonist’s search for his missing father having no recollection of his own son along with his ceaseless efforts to be engaged in a circle of gangsters and collaborators just for coming in contact with his father and acting as his guardian angel—draw our attention.
Dejected son as he is, the protagonist bearing always a remorseful mind filled with zeal and passion for fatherly caress and affection has been seen throughout this short novel to be alert for the welfare of his father.
The small masterpiece ‘Villa Triste’ by Patrick Modiano,entitled in English ‘Inside the sad house’ in the newspaper NEWAGE,has been analyzed on the basis of English translation which John Cullen has done without changing its original French title meaning literally ‘Gloomy Villa’. In Villa Triste unlike most of Modiano’s novellas the stories do not dip into that life-world of the French Occupation.In this novel this young man who calls himself Victor Chmara flees Paris for that small lakeside town, where he meets the flamboyant doctor René Meinthe and the mysterious auburn-haired Yvonne, on the border of France and Switzerland at the outbreak of the Algerian war of independence. Victor falls for Yvonne, and is intrigued by Meinthe. The three spend a few summer weeks lunching, dining and having fun with the town’s tourists. Very soon Victor starts embracing their world of local pageants, soirées and late-night debauchery, and intending to settle into an endless summer with Yvonne.
However, not the action, but everything around it seems to be the key to this novel. Victor had his wardrobe trunk placed in a corner of the room, standing upright so that the things in the drawers were within easy reach. He himself pushed the suitcases to the far end of the bathroom. He did not open them, because someone like him has to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice and should consider any room to be a temporary refuge. Being a Jew he is haunted by the experiences of his parents’ generation; by statelessness and escapism; and by the ‘lingering scent of Nansen passports’. Always deep down his heart he feels an impulse for being prepared to escape at any time .
In this great novel Villa Triste infused with nostalgia for a lost time, place and people there are some key novelistic moments, but little else in terms of action seems to occur. Modiano blends sharp, colourful nostalgia with blurred recollection to create a haunting, mysterious and immensely satisfying tale framed as a reminiscent of lost time. A key to this novella’s framing device is memory.So, it has been observed that Victor recalls those few weeks spent in a summer in the early 1960s from a time twelve or thirteen years later, in the mid-1970s.
Throughout the novella ‘Missing person’ translated by Daniel Weissbort from the French ‘Rue des boutiques obscures’ a disheartened man’s craving for knowing about his life-span of a decade having past lost due to amnesia has been reflected through the ceaseless efforts of the Protagonist, bearing assumed names, who searches for his identity, a haunting tale of memory and depression.