Sunday, 1 February 2015

L'herbe des nuits (Herb of the Night) by Patrick Modiano

As usual, you could almost say, the Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 2014, was not widely known. Patrick Modiano, is a French writer with around 30 books to his name. Some of his books were already translated into Swedish, but very few into English. I suppose that has or will change soon. The reason for the prize according to the Nobel Committee is "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies."

I thought that maybe this writer is a little bit more accessible than a lot of the others. So when my friend Lena asked if I wanted to borrow, 'Nätternas gräs' (L'herbe des nuits) I said yes. It is a short book, and it is about memory. Jean, the narrator, is a writer and he wanders around the streets of Paris and villages in the outskirts, to remember something that happened 40 years ago. He met Dannie, a mysterious woman, who at one point just disappeared. She befriended a crowd of various, also rather mysterious persons, bordering on criminality, or something else? Once they all disappeared from his view, the police contacted him about his connection to the group.

We follow Jean through the streets of Paris, and his notebook. He always makes notes about everything; name of cafés, streets, signs, shops, etc. While reading his notes 40 years later he is trying to find answers to what happened to Dannie and his own feelings for her.

It is an easy read, and I can really recommend it. The streets of Paris are nicely described, and we can follow along Jean's and Dannie's life at the time. When he happens to run into the police officer that once interrogated him, he gets a few more clues on Dannie. Jean's story is told in a matter of fact way, and without emotions, neither then nor now.  I would not mind reading another book by him. The Academy's Permanent Secretary Peter Englund suggest to start with one of Modiano's books that has been translated into English; Missing Persons. 

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