Patrick Modiano is a mystery himself. His writings, nearly all of them, feature a somewhat autobiographical account of his life. One thing above all others pops up in his literature, memory.
Memories of his city, Paris. His own memories of life, and the focus of much of his writing, the memories of his characters. Modiano creates works of fiction so rooted in truthful and intriguing mystery you that find yourself diving into his hypnotic stories trying to catch your breath. Born in 1945 in a recently liberated Paris, France. Modiano was relatively unheard of in the US until he was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature for his work The Occupation Trilogy. His writing tends to all follow similar patterns to one another of post-occupied France after World War Two, and being raised during that time period.
Modiano’s first release after his Nobel, translated into English, So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood is a haunting look at the shadows in our minds, in which we find our main character investigating a trauma buried deep in the forgotten memories of forgotten memories. An older man looking back to a younger time, cautious to look around the corner.
Jean Daragane, a writer, lives his reclusive life in his apartment in Paris, anxious and un-trusting of the world around him. Daragane quickly finds himself in a mystery. A phone call from a stranger named Giles Ottolini saying he found his address book and wishes to return it. Ottolini insists on meeting in person, and they find one another at a cafe not far from Daragane's home. After returning the address book, Ottolini has one question in its regard, is there any more information about Guy Tortel?
In the address book, only a name and a phone number, long out of date, are listed. Daragane looks up the entry and has nothing else of note to add, he doesn't remember him at all. Not quite convinced, Ottolini points out that Daragane used the name Tortel as a character of his in a novel he wrote, which Daragane cannot even remember writing.
This sets off the theme of the So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood, with echoes of memories fracturing through the head of Jean Daragane, mysteries behind nearly every paragraph and frayed, loose ends that beg to be woven anew. Modiano writes with what seems effortless style and ingenuity as you’re left longing for answers that you can feel at the tip of your fingers on each page turn. Trying to recall who Tortel could be leads Daragane to an old friendship belonging to his mother.
Mystery folding into murky memory, you’re quickly pulled along into a fast story where you feel nothing but rising tension written to haunting closure. This book will stick with you long after you close the pages, and will resonate with everyone who ever looks too deep into the banks of their memory. You can try to forget the past, and sometimes you can succeed for a time, though sometimes the past finds you, and you wish it never had.
I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads. With grit-teeth determination, it created a longing in me to finish the things I put off in my life before I forget why I ever started them in the first place.