Patrick Modiano’s new novel, On the Road to Chevreuse

aAs a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, you don’t save much. When a person grew up or spent a certain period of time in his life, paintings are glued to houses, which is rather harmless. But every now and then people with audio guides wander the streets and through places where books are being prepared or where the author likes to spend time.

Peter Courte

Editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper in Berlin.

For example, you can walk in the footsteps of Patrick Modiano through Jouy-en-Josas, a small town southwest of Paris. This literary foundation can refer to the fact that Modiano spent part of his childhood here.

Modiano is in any case something to be grateful for the so-called literary walk. In his novels, he usually names streets, house numbers, and metro stations so precisely, often also linked to his autobiography, that the tourist office cannot resist taking advantage of tourism. This creates the illusion of entering the world set in Modiano’s novel.

The Rue du Docteur de Kurzenne is already known through four novels. The “On the Way to Chevreuse” now appears for the fifth time. The reader does not feel at home, but it is familiar. The narrator is also unknown. Jan Bosmann is a writer, who was actually the narrator of “Der Horizont” (2010; in German 2013).

young woman secret

One would also like to know now how things went for him when he wanted to visit his childhood sweetheart at Dieffenbachstrasse 16 in Kreuzberg, who ran a bookshop there; While he waited, he postponed the meeting on a nice, warm summer day in Berlin. The book ended simply because Modiano had no such shutdown-like scenes, and for good reason.

Bosmans spent part of his childhood at 38 Rue du Docteur de Kurzenne, as did Modiano. When the narrative began in “On the Road to Chevreuse,” he looked back more than five decades to the 1960s. His childhood, which also plays an important role, dates back to another 15 years.

But the center, Modiano’s period, is the mid-sixties, and what happens, as is often the case, is connected to Modiano’s biography by a thin and associative bond. It’s like a puzzle: the closer you think you are to the similarities, the greater the difference. Bosmans is no modiano, but he’s no stranger either.

Patrick Modiano:


Patrick Modiano: “On the way to Chevreuse.” Translated from the French by Elizabeth Edel. Hanser, 158 pages, 22 euros.
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Photo: Hanser Verlag

In “Unterwegs nach Chevreuse,” translated as confidently as ever by Elizabeth Edel, everything else that makes up the core of Patrick Modiano’s novel is pieced together. A twenty-year-old is searching for his way in life and begins writing. a woman of the same age with a mysterious past; A number of people have engaged in shady dealings with, as he succinctly describes it, “bad company”; And the arrogance of the older young man looks at that young man, in Paris last year, the mysteries that are still elusive.

Bosmans also glide back and forth between times, glimpsing – “in the afternoon” – and also naming periods of time, 15 or 30 years later, but in this narrative style the times sometimes overlap each other like watercolors on a piece of paper . Bosmans himself has problems creating a chronology between certain events, which appear to him simultaneously.

aporia memory

And he fell into Aporea from the insoluble memory: “I wondered whether at that moment he had really said: ‘I have never seen such a beautiful spring in Paris,’ or whether this spring was rather not the memory of that spring which made him write this Words today, fifty years later.”

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