When Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014, his work was little known and not widely translated in the English-speaking world. Thanks to Verba Mundi, who rushed many of his novels into print and have released them in elegant, slim volumes, we can now find out for ourselves the strength, beauty, and unease of Modiano’s prose. When I first heard Modiano’s name in connection to this prestigious prize, I looked him up to find that in addition to his many novels, he had also authored the screenplay for the French Revisionist WWII film Lacombe, Lucien, Louis Malle’s fictional follow-up to Max Ophul’s The Sorrow and The Pity.
The two films together represented a shift in French dialogue about WWII – previous to the 1960s and 1970s, French identity had relied on the preservation of the Gaullist myth, where most French had been good nationalist resistance fighters (as opposed to collaborators or communist resistance fighters). Then I found out that many of Modiano’s novels are considered detective novels, and when Modiano’s Missing Person showed up here at BookPeople in the mystery section, I couldn’t wait to choose it for one of my book clubs.