Monday, April 25, 2016

"In The Café of Lost Youth" by Patrick Modiano - Translated by Chris Clarke (NYRB)

ISBN 978-1-59017-953-6 NYRB

"In The Café of Lost Youth" by Patrick Modiano / Translated by Chris Clarke (NYRB)


As much as possible, I try to read every book - fiction and non-fiction on the city of Paris, especially if it took place in the 1950s.  Of my interest, the post-war years are the most interesting to me.  Great films, wonderful music and really interesting figures emerge from Paris during that time.  I suspect that Patrick Modiano feels the same way about Paris, because "In The Café of Lost Youth" is very much a love letter (or love novel) to Paris - especially the nighttime of Paris.  Where the characters wander around various neighborhoods and cafés and occasionally listen to lectures.  I do not even know for sure, but I suspect that the novel is based on Ed van der Elsken's book of photos "Love on the Left Bank" that tells a tale of a girl who wanders into the world of the Letterists/Situationists. There is likewise a character that is based on Guy Debord, but not overly him, but an "ideal" version of Debord. 

I like the novel for all the above reasons, but it is not as good as Michèle Bernstein's novel "All The King's Horses" or "The Night."   She was married to Debord, and her fiction can be read as 'maybe' a memoir.  Nevertheless, Modiano is sort of the after-effect of such literature by Bernstein.  His, is a very romantic narrative - and there are at least four running narratives on the same girl, "Lluki" who is both a wanderer as well as a bohemian adventurer in the night life of Paris.  If nothing else, it makes one wish to purchase an one-way ticket to Paris. 

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