Confounding odds makers once again, the Nobel Prize in literature, announced today, goes to French author Patrick Modiano, whose more than 30 novels often focus on the Nazi occupation of France. The Academy described him as “a Marcel Proust of our time.” If you’re not familiar with him, you’re in good company. The Guardian comments, “Modiano is well known in France but something of an unknown quantity for even widely read people in other countries.”
The Telegraph calls Modiano’s The Search Warrant (RH/Vintage Digital, 2012) one of his best-known books. You can read a sample via OverDrive.
Several titles by Modiano are listed in on American library catalogs, including the 1974 film Lacombe, Lucien, by director Louis Malle, for which Modiano co-wrote the script which is partially based on Malle’s own experiences during the occupation and a children’s title, Catherine Certitiude.
Publisher David R. Godine’s web site today features the three Modiano titles they have published in English (the Washington’s Post‘s Ron Charles delivered the news to Godine, who was “staking dahlias” at the time and exclaimed, “This means we’ll be ahead this year!”):
Missing Person, Patrick Modiano, translated by Daniel Weissbort, 2004 — Also winner of the most prestigious French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, it was reviewed by Booklist and Library Journal. Saying it is probably his “best known novel,” The Guardian describes it as being, “about a detective who loses his memory and endeavours to find it.”
Honeymoon, Patrick Modiano, 1995 — also reviewed by Booklist and Library Journal
Catherine Certitude, Patrick Modiano — A children’s title, it was reviewed by several library publications. The following is the publisher’s description:
This charming book will delight any child — or adult — who appreciates ballet, Paris, New York, childhood, and mystery (not necessarily in that order). The book’s plot is deceptively simple: Catherine, the eponymous heroine, begins her story watching her own daughter demonstrate jazz steps in their ballet school on a snowy afternoon in New York. Memory takes her (and the reader) back to her childhood, spent in the tenth arrondissement of Paris. In her youth, Catherine lives with her gentle father, Georges Certitude, who runs a shipping business with his partner, a loud, failed poet named Casterade. The real partners in this story, however, are the father and daughter who share the simple pleasures of daily life: sitting in the church square, walking to school, going to her ballet class every Thursday afternoon.
As a result of the prize, Yale University Press has moved up the publication of the following title from January to November:
Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas, Patrick Modiano, translated by Mark Polizzotti
Includes Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin.