Patrick Modiano

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Patrick Modiano in 2014

Jean Patrick Modiano (born 30 July 1945) is a French novelist and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature.


Missing Person (1978 )[edit]

  • I AM NOTHING.Nothing but a pale shape.
  • And that these directories and yearbooks constituted the most valuable and moving library you could imagine, as their pages listed people, things, vanished worlds , to which they alone bore witness.
  • She committed suicide...
    "She often told me, she was frightened of getting old."
  • We passed the Gardens and turned down Avenue de New York. There, under the embankment trees,I had the unpleasant sensation that I was dreaming.I had already lived my life and was just a ghost hovering in the tepid air of Saturday evening. Why try to renew ties which had been broken and look for paths that had been blocked off long ago? And the plump, moustachioed little man, walking beside me, hardly seemed real.
  • You should never marry a lot younger than never works ...there is not a single case of its working..
  • Hutte, for instance , used to quote the case of a fellow he called "the beach man ". This man had spent forty years of his life on beaches or by the sides of swimming pools, chatting pleasantly with summer visitors and rich idlers. He is to be seen, in his bathing costume, in the corners and backgrounds of holiday snaps, among groups of happy people, but no one knew his name and why he was there. And no one noticed when one day he vanished from the photographs. I did not dare tell Hutte, but I felt that " the beach man " was myself . Though it would not surprised him if I had confessed it. Hutte was always saying that, in the end, we we're all " beach men " and that the sand keeps the traces of our footsteps only a few moments "

Honey Moon (1990)[edit]

  • There are moments when we are incapable of exchanging a single word with anybody…it’s beyond us…
    • p. 26
  • Has a biographer the right to suppress certain details under the pretext that he considers them superfluous? Or do they all have their importance, and must he present them one after the other, impartially, so that not a single one is left out, as in the inventory of a distraint? Unless the line of life, once it has reached its term, purges itself of all its useless and decorative elements. In which case, all that remains is the essential: the blanks, the silences and the pauses.
    • P. 36
  • He (Rigaud) the unpleasant impression that he was returning to his point of departure, to the scene of his unhappy childhood, and that he was sensing the invisible presence of his mother, just when he had managed to forget the wretched woman: all his memory of her were unpleasant. And r once again he would have to remain a prisoner in the garden for hours upon hour …the thought made him shiver. The war was playing a dirty trick on him in forcing him to return to the prison that had been his childhood, from which he had escaped so long ago. Reality was now resembling the nightmares he regularly had: it was the beginning of new term in the school dormitory…..
    • p. 57
  • From one moment to another one can lose heart.
    • P. 89
  • Circumstance and settings are of no importance. One day this sense of emptiness and remorse submerges you. Then , like a tide, it ebbs and disappears. But in the end it returns in force, and she couldn’t shake it off. Nor could I?
    • p. 120

After the Circus (1992) English translation 2015[edit]

  • I've never been good at saying no.
    • p 22
  • But topographical details have a strange effect on me : instead of clarifying and sharpening images from past , they give me a harrowing sensation of emptiness and severed relationships.
    • p 44
  • When you are young , you neglect certain details that might become precious later.
    • p 53

Suspended Sentences (1993)[edit]

  • A photograph can express silence.
  • Of all the punctuation marks; he told me ellipses were his favorites.
  • Certain coincidences risk passing unnoticed; certain people have appeared in our lives on several occasions without our realizing it.
  • Rue Froidevaux seemed to go on forever, as if the distances stretched to infinity.
  • He thought a photograph was nothing; that he should blend into the surroundings and become invisible, the better to work and capture –as he said natural light. One shouldn’t even hear the click of Rolleiflex. He would have liked to conceal his camera. The death of his friend Robert Capa could in fact be explained, as he saw it, by this desire, the giddiness of blending into the surrounding once and for all.
  • All that would remain of me would be the raincoat I’d been wearing, rolled on a bench.

Out Of The Dark (1995)[edit]

  • But I wasn’t quite sure how to spell ‘ Cartaud, and I found listings for Cartau, Cartaud , Cartault , Cartaux, Carteau, Carteaud, Carteaux, (34 )
  • Ever since my childhood, I had seen my father carrying so many bags- suitcases with false bottoms , leather satchels or overnight bags, even those black briefcases that gave him a false air of repectability…. And I never knew just what was in them. ( 52 )
  • I was always amazed when people were kind to us.
  • I was responsible to no one, I had no need mumble excuses or lies. I would become someone else and my metamorphosis would be so complete that no one I’d met over the past fifteen years would be able to recognize me. (116)

The Search Warrant (2000)[edit]

  • Then again, the term “Jew” meant nothing to the fourteen-year-old Dora. When it came down to it, what did people understand by the term “Jew”? For himself, he never gave it a thought. He was used to being put into this or that category by the authorities. Unskilled labourer. Ex –Austrian. French legionnaire. Non- suspect. Ex-serviceman 100% disabled. Foreign statute labourer. Jew.
    • p. 43
  • This feeling of not belonging to the same sensation which grips you in a dream, you find yourself walking through an unfamiliar district. On waking you realize, little by little, that the pattern of its streets had overlaid with the one with which, in day time, you are familiar.
    • p. 46
  • Like many writers before me, I believe in coincidence and, sometimes, in the novelist’s gift for clairvoyance- the word gift not being the right one, for it implies a kind of superiority. Clairvoyance is simply the part of profession: the essential leaps of imagination, the need to fix one’s mind on detail-to the point of obsession, in fact, so as not to lose the thread and to give in one’s natural laziness. All the, is tension, this cerebral exercise may well lead in the long run to “flashes of intuition concerning events past and future” , as defined by Larousse dictionary under “clairvoyance”.
    • pp. 47-48
  • What makes us decide to run away? I remember my own flight on 18 January 1960…. . A calm ordinary winter, not to be compared with that eighteen years earlier. But it seems that the sudden urge to escape may be prompted by one of those cold, grey days which makes you more than ever aware of your solitude, intensifying your feeling that a trap is about to close.
    • P 52
  • Perhaps it was one of those mild, sunny winter days when you have a feeling of holiday and eternity- the illusion that passage of time is suspended, and that you need only slip through this breach to escape the trap which is closing around you.
    • P 54
  • Such photographs exist in every family. They were caught in a few seconds, the duration of the exposure, and these second have become an eternity.
    • P 86
  • Why, one wonders, does lightning strike in one place rather than another?
    • P 86
  • Fredo Lampe. Am Rande Der Nacht. For me, name and title evoked those lighted windows from which you cannot tear your gaze. You are convinced that, behind them, somebody whom you have forgotten has been awaiting your return for years, or else that there is no longer anybody there. Only a lamp, left burning in the empty room.
    • P 87
  • Children are liable to expect more from life than their parents, and faced with adversity their reaction is more violent. They go farther, much farther than their parents, and, thereafter, their parents are unable to protect them.
    • P 104
  • The sign had been put up out of suspicion and a guilty conscience: “Military zone. Filming or photography prohibited".
    • p 125
  • Ever since, the Paris wherein I have tried to retrace her steps has remained as silent and deserted as it was on the day. I walk through empty streets. For me, they are always empty, even at dusk, during the rush hour, when the crowds are hurrying towards the mouth of metro. I think of her in spite of myself, sensing an echo of her presence in this neighbourhood or that. The other evening, it was near the Gare du Nord.
  • I shall never know how she spent her days, where she hid, in whose company she passed the winter months of her first escape, or the few weeks of spring when she escaped for the second time. That is her secret. A poor and precious secret which not even the executioners the decrees, the occupying authorities, the Depot, the barracks, the camps, history, time – everything that corrupts and destroys you- have been able to take away from her.
    • P 137

From Nobel Lecture (2014)[edit]

  • A novelist has more talent for written than oral assignments.
  • His speech is hesitant because he is used to crossing out his words. It is true that after several redrafts, his style may be crystal clear. But when he takes the floor, he no longer has any means at his disposal to correct his stumbling speech.
  • Writing is a strange and solitary activity.
  • A novelist's lack of awareness of and critical distance to his own body of work is due to a phenomenon that I have noticed in myself and many others: as soon as it is written, every new book erases the last one, leaving me with the impression that I have forgotten it. I thought I was writing books one after the other in a disjointed way, in successive bouts of oblivion, but often the same faces, the same names, the same places, the same phrases keep coming back in book after book, like patterns on a tapestry woven while half asleep. While half asleep or while daydreaming. A novelist is often a sleepwalker, so steeped is he in what he must write, and it is natural to worry when he crosses the road in case he is run over. Do not forget, though, the extreme precision of sleepwalkers who walk over roofs without ever falling off.
  • I always think twice before reading the biography of a writer I admire. Biographers sometimes latch onto small details, unreliable eyewitness accounts, character traits that appear puzzling or disappointing – all of which is like the crackling sound that messes with radio transmissions, making the music and the voices impossible to hear. It is only by actually reading his books that we gain intimacy with a writer. This is when he is at his best and he is speaking to us in a low voice without any of the static.
  • With the passing of the years, each neighbourhood, each street in a city evokes a memory, a meeting, a regret, a moment of happiness for those who were born there and have lived there. Often the same street is tied up with successive memories, to the extent that the topography of a city becomes your whole life, called to mind in successive layers as if you could decipher the writings superimposed on a palimpsest. And also the lives of the thousands upon thousands of other, unknown, people passing by on the street or in the Métro passageways at rush hour.
  • You can lose yourself or disappear in a big city. You can even change your identity and live a new life. You can indulge in a very long investigation to find a trace of malice, starting only with one or two addresses in an isolated neighbourhood. I have always been fascinated by the short note that sometimes appears on search records: Last known address. Themes of disappearance, identity and the passing of time are closely bound up with the topography of cities. That is why since the 19th century, cities have been the territory of novelists, and some of the greatest of them are linked to a single city: Balzac and Paris,Dickens and London, Dostoyevsky and Saint Petersburg, Tokyo and Nagai Kafū, Stockholm and Hjalmar Söderberg.

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