Patrick Modiano – 2014

Patrick Modiano ( born 30 July 1945) is a French novelist. Called the “Marcel Proust of our time”,he won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”. He previously won the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for lifetime achievement, the 1978 Prix Goncourt for Rue des boutiques obscures, and the 1972 Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française for Les Boulevards de ceinture. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have been celebrated in and around France, though, despite Modiano’s prolific output less than a dozen of his works had been translated into English, before the announcement of the prize. The award-winning Missing Person had sold just 2,425 copies in the US prior to the Nobel.

Jean Patrick Modiano was born in a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. His father, was descended from a famous Sephardic family of Salonica. His mother, was a Belgian (Flemish) actress. Modiano’s parents met in occupied Paris during World War II and began their relationship semi-clandestinely.

Modiano’s childhood took place in a unique atmosphere. He was first brought up by his maternal grandparents who taught him Flemish, his first language. He completed his secondary education by government aid, being able to put up between the absence of his father and his mother’s frequent tours. This brought him closer to his brother, Rudy, who died of a disease at age 10 (the works of Patrick Modiano from 1967 to 1982 are dedicated to him). He recalls this tragic period in his famed memoir Un Pedigree (2005).

He received his baccalaureate (high school diploma) but did not continue his higher education.

In 1968, he published his first book La Place de l’étoile. The novel displeased his father so much that he tried to buy all existing copies of the book to stop their circulation.

The 2010 release of the German translation of La Place de l’Étoile won Modiano the German Prize of the Southwest Radio, which hailed the book as a major work.

Modiano’s novels all delve into the puzzle of identity, of how one can track evidence of one’s existence through the traces of the past. Obsessed with the troubled and shameful period of the Occupation of France Modiano returns to this theme in all of his novels, book after book building a remarkably homogeneous work. “After each novel,” he says. In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born.” He writes constantly about the city of Paris, describing the evolution of its streets, its habits and its people.

His latest work is the novel Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier (2014). Modiano has also written children’s books.

Modiano’s works which have been translated into English are as follows:

La Ronde de nuit (1969); English translation: Night Rounds

Les Boulevards de ceinture (1972) English translation: Ring Roads

Lacombe, Lucien (1974); screenplay co-written with Louis Malle

Rue des boutiques obscures (1978); English translation: Missing Person

Quartier Perdu (1984); English translation: A Trace of Malice

Catherine Certitude (1988) English translation: Catherine Certitude

Voyage de noces (1990); English translation: Honeymoon

Du plus loin de l’oubli (1995); English translation: Out of the Dark

Dora Bruder (1997); English translations: Dora Bruder, The Search Warrant