I just wanted to share an incredible book I read recently and resonated with me powerfully, “The Search Warrant” by Patrick Modiano.
I felt I bought this book almost solely by instinct – a late night reading trawl led me to this on Abebook.
In Modiano's own words (on Fredo Lampe’s ‘Am Rande der Nacht’), “ . . . even before opening the book, I had divined its tone and atmosphere, as thought I had already read him in another life.”
French writer, Modiano comes across a missing person (rebellious teenager Dora Bruder) notice in a 1941 edition of ‘Paris Soir’ and devotes the next few decades unravelling a fragmented, lateral narrative of memory, abandonment and loss (of people, stories, history) and alludes obliquely to the complicity + guilt of the occupation.
Modiano won the Noble Prize for Literature in 2014 – and that is more likely to put me off!
I’d read a Modiano book previously and was underwhelmed. (Maybe I didn’t get it?)
But the sound of this one, the mystery, the sense of loss, rebellious youth, making sense of a fug of history really drew me to it. A fragmentary biography, part autobiography and a thriller (even though we already know the outcome).
An incredible book, bleak (the cumulative horror of small details) yet incredibly humane – a labour of love / obsession – amazingly constructed, relentlessly moving to the already known, horrific conclusion.
On describing another writer’s (Lampe’s again) book he describes his own:
“. . . short scenes unfolding as in a film, interlocking people’s lives. The whole thing light and fluid, linked together very loosely, pictorial, lyric, full of atmosphere.”
It resonated with me a lot and reminded me of my week walking Paris streets in the early summer of 1967, aged 15. Just looking, taking it in. I now realise what a formative influence that week was.
The book is so good I read it twice – a rare occurrence indeed!