15 July 2015

Patrick Modiano: Rue des Boutiques Obscures | Missing Person (1978)

Last May I made a blog post about Patrick Modiano's L'Horizon, which was very favorable. Modiano's Rue des Boutiques Obscures (1978) (translated as Missing Person) won the prix Goncourt that year, and although this is certainly not the second Modiano novel I've read it's the only one I've concentrated on bearing in mind the author's Nobel prize win last October. Was it deserved? Personally, I've not decided but shall continue to read Modiano books until I have.

Rue des Boutiques Obscures is – as might be expected of a Modiano novel – an existential detective story, and a rather complex one. Here we have private detective Guy Roland made unemployed by his boss Hutte, who has decided to retire to Nice. Roland's name was that on the passport Hutte gave him, as Roland – employed by Hutte for eight years – forgot his own name some time before, along with everything that happened in his past.

What follows is a detective story in which Roland chases his own past, initially leading him into all kinds of situations with those who were largely indirectly part of that past. Roland's search takes him to many places in Paris and later beyond, but there is a great deal of hard slog through telephone directories ancient and modern, as well as pretending to be who he is not, before he is led to people he doesn't recognise but who recognise him, and before he can at least begin to realise who he once was. But, of course, we're all made of scraps of this and scraps of that, eventually coming together as a recognisable jigsaw puzzle. Probably much like Modiano's work as a whole.

My other posts on Patrick Modiano:

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Patrick Modiano: Les Boulevards de ceinture | Ring Roads
Patrick Modiano: L'Horizon
Patrick Modiano: La Petite Bijou

No comments: