From the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, a haunting novel of suspense in which a single, unexpected phone call to a man living quietly in Paris launches a chain of menacing encounters and events, unlocking a dark secret he had erased from memory.
He continually reintroduces the story, and then he transitions into the past where desire and remembrance tug at the heart strings of who we were, who we knew and who we have become. How are we the same when we are no longer the person we used to be? ... This is where The Third Man-meets-Humphrey Bogart noir wet dream builds the conflict. There is intrigue, there are missing persons, there are affairs of the heart and body. There is the cliché existential wandering that would make Camus proud ... Modiano has continued his celebrated life’s work in these pages. The mystery, the journey, is the story. And the beauty of his prose shines once again in this deep, short read that provokes the trappings of too many musings and desires, albeit a welcome provocation.
The overlap, the back-and-forth, may seem repetitious, but it isn’t. Rather, it makes reading any single Modiano book like encountering one installment in an ongoing, multivolume work. This press of memory becomes more resonant the more one reads ... As to whom he is addressing, it could be anyone: his readers, the other characters in the novel, himself. And yet, that makes his work only more compelling, like an ouroboros of the inner life. This, Modiano insists, is where we are, born out of history into a state of unknowing, in which memory and forgetting blur into a fantasy that can never be fulfilled.
The setup is classically Modianesque. The protagonist, writer Jean Daragane, bearing a considerable degree of resemblance to the author himself, is plunged into a mysterious investigation, obliged to play the amateur sleuth. The subject of the search remains tantalisingly – or excruciatingly, according to one’s tolerance for ambiguity – just out of frame ... Layers of stories within stories are recounted so evocatively that, although you think you know what has happened, when you try to pin anything down it falls away like sand ... While this is one of his shorter novels, it is also one of his densest; with each Modiano novel, the intertextual richness increases further ... In what is otherwise a smooth and faithful translation of deceptively simple prose, there are a couple of awkward features ... Modiano reaffirms an unsettling trope of circularity which falls short, naturally, of closure.