Pedigree by Patrick Modiano


Pedigree by Patrick Modiano

French autobiography

Original title – Un pedigree

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

At home
Drawing pictures
Of mountain tops
With him on top
Lemon yellow sun
Arms raised in a V
And the dead lay in pools of maroon below

Daddy didn’t give attention
Oh, to the fact that mommy didn’t care
King Jeremy The Wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today

Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy
Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed a lion
Jeremy by Pearl Jam is another man dealing with the let down of who his parents were .

As we move near this year Nobel we are seeing the first new books in English from last years winner Patrick Modiano , this is one of two books from Maclehose press his two most recent books .There is also a trilogy out from Bloomsbury and the trilogy that was already in the pipeline from Yale press that have all appeared since he won the nobel last year .I’m so pleased I have a number of more books to read by him for when last year , when I read search warrant and published my review just a few days before he won the nobel there wasn’t many books available to be read by him .

On 2 august , 1945 , my father went by bike to register my birth at the town hall of Boulogne-Bilancourt .I imagine returning through the deserted streets or Auteuil and alongside the silent quays of that summer .

Then he decided we would live in Mexico .The passports were ready .At the last minute , he changed his mind . He came so close to leaving Europe after the war .Thirty years later , he went to die in Switzerland , a neutral country .In the meantime , he moved around a lot : Canada , Guyana , Equatorial Africa , Colombia .. He went searching for El Dorado , in Vain

To me this capture his father a flighty man who want the quick buck all the time , how does it go this time next year we will be …

For me this is an interesting choice it is a short book , writers autobiographies tend to be strange books I find .But this is quite straightforward and maybe for someone who is called the Proust of his times , his own life as biography is rather eye-opening and maybe explains his fiction .What we see is the young Patrick that is shipped off after his parents an actress mother and his father a shady character that is also a womaniser .What happens is a young boy sent to schools with a heartless mother that doesn’t want the boy and a father who sets the police on him when he needs money .Add to that a brother that dies and his jewish father trying to get by through the war .We see his early years through to his young adulthood and his first rungs on the ladder of being a writer , as he talks about the writers he knows and the books he likes at the time .This include a book by a French writer called Monherlant which I recently found and got myself to read at a later date .

Raymond Queneau was kind enough to receive me on saturdays .Often , at the beginning of the afternoon .We’d return from Neuilly along the Left Bamk .He told me of a walk he had taken with Boris Vian to a dead-end street that almost no-one knew , at the far end of the 13th Arrondissment .

His early writer years he meet the great oulipo writer Raymond Queneau .

What this is a small piece of the greater puzzle that is the fiction of Patrick Modiano , I have read the search warrant, so you don’t get lost in the neighbour hood (review to follow soon also from Maclehose press ) and suspended sentences from Yale that I read but didn’t get to review before it was due back to the library . I enjoyed the later part of the book where he is just starting his journey as a writer and we see him visiting the leading lights of french literature at the time .I said at the time I thought Patrick was a writer that Christopher Maclehose liked and so pleased to be proven right as they publish two new books by him to the earlier books that he would worked on at Harvil years ago .

Have you read Patrick Modiano ?


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 12:44:23

    I have – I read Search Warrant too, and liked it very much. But I’ll be interested to see if his fiction ventures further or whether it is much in the same mould.


  2. JacquiWine
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 17:14:26

    I’ve yet to read anything by Modiano, so I guess I should start with some of his fiction. Suspended Sentences caught my eye last year but there was a long waiting list at the library at the time. How did you find it compared to The Search Warrant?


  3. Lisa Hill
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 22:27:39

    Hi Stu (and Jacqui and Kaggsy)
    I read Suspended Sentences last year when my darling library bought a copy just for me (how good is that?) and I’ve just read Paris Nocturne (Accident Nocturne) which is a new English translation published by the Australian publisher Text. (The review is on my blog). I am fascinated by the sense of searching for answers when there aren’t any, of trying to locate people in his past to unravel it, especially to do with his father. But there are also allusions to the Nazi Occupation, which intrigues me too because he was, after all, born in 1945 so he would hardly have experienced it. But small children absorb more than we know, and I think the recriminations, shame and guilt must have been part of his young life, tangled up with his memories of his unsatisfactory parents.
    I also have Little Jewel published by Text and I’ll be reading that soon.


  4. kimbofo
    Sep 15, 2015 @ 22:34:10

    I still haven’t read anything by him Stu. Where do you suggest is a good place to start?


  5. anafichesdelectures
    Sep 16, 2015 @ 01:39:41

    The only novel I’ve read so far is “Dora Bruder” and I enjoyed his writing style. It reminded me a little of Sebald.
    I just purchased “La Place de L’étoile”, “Le Chant De L’équipage” & “Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier”. Hope to read them soon.


  6. audreyschoeman
    Sep 16, 2015 @ 05:33:33

    Modiano is my greatest discovery in what has been a year of great literary discoveries for me. I’m absolutely in love with the two (Suspended Sentences and Night Watch) of his books I’ve read so far and am looking forward to getting to more! Apparently he’s very easy to read in the original French so my rusty language skills might get brushed up.


  7. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Sep 16, 2015 @ 07:22:50

    I like the sound of this one, I like starting with books that delve into the writer’s context of growing up, families and influences, I’ve been reading Maryse Condé and started with vignettes of her childhood and then a novel about the grandmother she never knew and now am into one of her first novels, in which she begins to research her ancient roots. That context of where she was at in her own life, adds something to the reading and understanding of the body of work – especially when that person is searching for the relatively unknown. Modiano it seems, never stops searching.


  8. 1streading
    Sep 16, 2015 @ 18:58:48

    It’s quite an astonishing change: from there being hardly anything translated to the present surfeit. I’ve read Honeymoon, The Search Warrant and Ring Roads and I admit I could see myself quite happily making my way through his back catalogue.


  9. MarinaSofia
    Sep 17, 2015 @ 10:25:09

    This was really sad, although he is quite sober and unemotional about his childhood experiences. It does help to explain a lot about his style and subject matter, you are right.


  10. Tony
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 12:44:46

    Still waiting for a (French) library copy of this, but it appears to have been lost somewhere – which is very Modiano…


  11. Neelima
    Sep 21, 2015 @ 05:53:34

    Yes, The Search Warrant was a beautiful read and extremely painful. One of those writers whose search for answers stay with you….


  12. Trackback: September on winstonsdad | Winstonsdad's Blog

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September 2015


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