Such amnesiac as the protagonist having two assumed names—Pedro McEvoy and Guy Roland— has been picturized by Patrick Modiano so aptly that along with this Guy the readers go through some sort of suspension until being compelled to take a pause by the edge of the lagoon, mentioned in the last chapter 47,where he has to take a decision for returning to his old address in Rome, Via delle Botteghe Oscure,2(Rue des Boutiques Obscures,2) to which both the Protagonist and his creator Modiano have attachment.
Guy Roland is an amnesiac detective who lost his memory ten years before the beginning of the story, which opens in 1965. When his employer, Hutte, retires and closes the detective agency where he has worked for eight years, Roland embarks on a search for his own identity. His investigations uncover clues to a life that seems to stop during the Second World War. It seems that he is Jimmy Pedro Stern, a Greek Jew from Salonica, who was living in Paris under an assumed name, Pedro McEvoy, and working for the legation of the Dominican Republic. He and several friends (Denise Coudreuse, a French model who shares his life; Freddie Howard Luz, a British citizen originally from Mauritius; Gay Orlov, an American dancer of Russian origin; and André Wildmer, an English former jockey, all of whom are enemy nationals) went to Megève to escape Paris that had become dangerous for them during the German occupation. Denise and Pedro attempted to flee to Switzerland, and paid a smuggler who abandoned them in the mountains, separating them and leaving them lost in the snow.
After recovering his memory partially, Guy Roland goes to look for Freddie, who went to live in Polynesia after the war. When he arrives in Bora Bora, he learns that Freddie has disappeared, either lost at sea or by choice. At the end of the novel he is about to follow the last clue that remains to his past: an address in the Via della Botteghe Obscure in Rome, where Jimmy Pedro Stern is recorded as having lived in the 1930s.
In ‘The Search Warrant’ translated by Joanna Kilmartin from the French ‘Dora Bruder’ Modiano often seeks to come back into contact with facts, occurrences, or people who existed before he was born. He is particularly prone to autobiography. Throughout the novelette he gives an indication of what might have happened before he came into being and connects that speculation to his present. Patrick Modiano, having gone through flashes of intuitions with his own power of clairvoyance, keeps getting inclined to the search-warrant. This search-warrant has led him to weave research, logical speculation, and emotive imagination around a Jewish girl named Dora Bruder who runs away from the convent school .Being obsessed with such inclination to the search, Modiano has gradually started having the impression of walking in Dora Bruder’s footsteps and coming close to her in time and space.
It is to be noted that on the basis of facts and information gathered from different sources Modiano tries to imagine himself on the same paths and places Dora might have trodden showing his sympathy towards her as he speculates that on Sundays, she would certainly have gone to visit her parents, who were still living in the hotel room at 41 Boulevard Ornano. He looks at the plan of the métro and tries to retrace her route in his mind. The simplest, avoiding too many changes, is to take a train from Nation, a station fairly near the convent.She would have got out at Simplon, just opposite the cinema and the hotel. Late on Sunday afternoons, she too would have returned by the same route. Did her parents go with her? Once at Nation, she had to walk, and the quickest way to the Rue de Picpus was via the Rue Fabre-d’Églantine. Such return was like going back to prison. The days were drawing in. It was already dark when she crossed the courtyard passing the mausoleum with its imitation grotto. Above the steps, a single lamp was lit over the door. She followed the corridors.
The theme of memory gets prominence in The Search Warrant . The Search Warrant being a literary hybrid focuses several genres — biography, autobiography, detective novel — to tell the story of its protagonist Dora Bruder, a 15-year-old daughter of Jewish immigrants, who, prevents herself from being deported to Auschwitz running away from the safety of the convent that was hiding her. As Modiano explains in the opening of his novel, he first became interested in Dora’s story when he came across her name in a missing person’s headline in a December 1941 edition of the French newspaper Paris Soir. Prompted by his own passion for the past, Modiano went to the listed address, and from there began his investigation, his search for memories. He wrote by piecing together newspaper cuttings, vague testimonies and old telephone directories, looking at outsider living on the outskirts of the city.
‘Paris Nocturne ’, translated by Phoebe Weston-Evans from the original French novel ‘Accident Nocturne’, opens with a minor car accident that leaves the narrator injured, and, more importantly, with a mission. Thirty years after it happened, the protagonist of this haunting novel recounts how, one winter night, when he was not quite twenty-one, he was hit by a car in Paris.
After the accident he is separated from the driver, to whom he feels a connection and possibly recognizes from some earlier incident in his life, and then he is brought to a private medical centre named Mirabeau Clinic, drugged, and paid off with more money than he’s ever had before. He sees this as a mystery that needs to be solved, and goes about tracking down the driver of the car across Paris.
The driver, a young woman named Jacqueline Beausergent, looks like someone he knew when he was involved in a similar accident years earlier. Accompanied by a vaguely threatening and shady man who knows her, they are both taken to the hospital. When the protagonist wakes up, the woman has disappeared. The man makes him sign a report of the accident, gives him an envelope full of money, and disappears too, just like the protagonist’s father did and just like his mother, who was not there when he was run over as a child. The protagonist feels compelled to track down Jacqueline and her associate. A strong sense of déjà vu leads him to revisit a past he wanted to leave behind.
Myriads of criss-cross memories, getting entangled in the narrator’s etherized state of mind, have been unveiled disorderly as a confusing mélange of past events and present events makes his subconscious mind drive him crazy through the dreamy hours across the nocturnal Paris. In this novella the nocturne of Paris does not picturize the bright side but does reflect the dark side where hide the dwellers of the city their dark and ugly activities.
Although the narrator is the type of person who will stop at the edge of a pool at dusk and allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness until he can see all the agitation beneath the surface of the still water, he gets confused with whether Dr. Bouvière is real being or a mirage provoked by lack of sleep, a habit of skipping meals and taking bad drugs, and starts believing in his philosophical concept ‘eternal return’ in which Bouvière explains that the same situations, the same faces, often reappear in our lives.
The novella ‘Pedigree’, translated by Mark Polizzotti from the French ‘Un Pedigree’, has been written in some sort of autobiographical manner portraying different characters and events from Paris’ post-war years and a disorderly childhood devoid of safety and hope. But he didn’t maintain the literary characteristics of an autobiographical novel as Modiano himself suggests that he is writing these pages the way one compiles a report or résumé. It’s just a simple film of deeds and facts. He has nothing to confess or elucidate and no interest in soul-searching or self-reflection.
But he realized that life continued with no clear sense of why at a given moment one found oneself with certain individuals rather than others, in certain places rather than others, and whether the film was in the original language or dubbed. This is how a true author like Patrick Modiano is able to express his unfulfilled childhood in true words without any sham. In case of writing his own pedigree he could not be artistic. Such artless dissemination has made him great. But very deep in his heart he is still craving for the lost days and nights of his childhood he couldn’t enjoy.