Pedigree sheds light on the childhood and adolescence that Modiano explores in Suspended Sentences, Dora Bruder, and other novels. In this literary work he intends to paint with a new brush the desperate, colorful and dark world of his parents under the German Occupation; his childhood passed being accompanied with circus performers and gangsters; and his formative friendship with the writer Raymond Queneau. While acknowledging that memory is never assured, Modiano recalls with painful clarity the most haunting moments of his early life, such as the death of his ten-year-old brother. Pedigree, Modiano’s only memoir, is a gift to his readers and a master key to the themes that have inspired his writing life. Only this novel ‘Pedigree’ has brought the readers closer than ever to the true self of Patrick Modiano.
This novel ‘In the Café of lost youth ’,translated by Euan Cameron,from the French novella‘Dans le Café de la Jeunesse perdue’, may be regarded as one of the most haunting novellas by Modiano. The atmosphere he creates tends to grasp the readers emotionally with little incidents and never let go. The protagonist, Louki, is omnipresent, but an essentially remains elusory to the end.Her real name is replaced by Louki, by the group of regulars in the café where the story starts. From that moment the readers feel that this adopted name will act as a powerful screen to protect her from our fascinated but inquisitive glances. Through recollections and jaded memories, a picture is built up of a young girl growing up in poverty in Montmartre. She meanders through life, on a restless quest to an unknowable destination, accumulating a cocaine habit and a disastrous marriage, and frequenting Le Condé, where a rabble of failed writers, world-weary academics and dissatisfied students are all in search of the same indefinable something. Years later, they all remember the girl they named ‘Louki’, but are at a loss to say what became of her. Ever-present through this story is the city of Paris; a Paris of no-man’s-land, of lonely journeys on the last métro home or nocturnal walks along wide boulevards; of cafés where the lost youth wanders in, searching for meaning, and the older generations sift through the memories of their own long-gone adolescence.
Modiano’s protagonists and narrators had to chase memories and a past that could neither be recaptured nor be fully understood. Their bohemian lives belong to that class of individuals for whom existence is a problem, circumstances a myth, and fortune an enigma; who have no sort of fixed abode, no place of refuge; who belong nowhere and are met everywhere. Escapism was a common occurrence in those earlier decades when Paris turned into a city of shadows. So for getting some sort of relief those individuals would get together at the crowded places like different cafés.In this novella it is to be noted that Patrick Modiano uses the café Le Condé as a fixed point around which much of the action take place.
‘Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue’ is set in 1960s Paris where a group of people, including a detective of shady background, wonder what is the matter with a certain young woman called Louki, who ended her life by throwing herself out a window. Even though there are plenty of geographical details, the reader is left with a sense of vagueness as to what happened and when. Throughout this novel , Modiano uses various narrators who relate from their point of view what they think they know about the woman. Even the protagonist herself relates episodes from her life, but she remains difficult to grasp. The protagonist evades being grasped.
With ‘So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood’, translated by Euan Cameron from the French ‘Pour que tu ne perdes pas dans le quartier’ Patrick Modiano shows a new dimension of his observing mind-frame which tends to penetrate the deepest enigmas of identity and compels us to ask whether we ever know who we truly are.
In this novel the protagonist Jean Daragane has built up a life of total solitude within the stillness of his Paris apartment. Even in his solitude, Daragane had never felt so light-hearted, with strange moments of elation either in the morning or the evening, as though everything were still possible and, as the title of the old film has it, adventure lay at the corner of the street…Never, even during the summers of his youth, had life seemed so free of oppression as it had since the beginning of this summer. But in summer, everything is uncertain — a ‘metaphysical’ season, his philosophy teacher, Maurice Caveing, had once told him. Whatever or wherever Daragane dreamt of navigating through his past memories could not come true in his life as those memories in dream acted like shadows. He could see them but they did not really exist.
Unexpected as that phone call from the stranger is, the curiosity of that unknown person triggers off the protagonist Jean Daragane’s memories of the past. If the stranger had not phoned, he would have totally forgotten the loss of this address book. He tried to recall the names that were in it. The week before, he had even wanted to start a new one and had begun to compose a list on a sheet of white paper.
After a short while, he had torn it up. None of the names belonged to people who had mattered in his life: he had never needed to write down their addresses and phone numbers. He knew them by heart. In this note book there was nothing but contacts of a so-called ‘professional nature’, a few supposedly useful addresses, no more than about thirty names. And among them several that should have been deleted, because they were no longer current. The only thing that had bothered him about the loss of this notebook was that he had written his own name in it, as well as his address.