Patrick Modiano, famous in France since winning the Prix Goncourt in 1978 for Rue des Boutiques Obscures, was recently awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, and so has become famous everywhere else as well. In their citation the Nobel committee said that he was being recognised ‘for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation’. (Perhaps that works better in Swedish.) ‘Occupation’ should, of course, be capitalised. It’s a period that the French struggle to accommodate in their national narrative and Modiano’s personal interrogation of the era’s moral ambiguities is part of that struggle.
Very little of his work has appeared in English to date and Yale University Press are quick off the mark with a volume that will appeal to newcomers faced with the prospect of working through an oeuvre that runs to around thirty books, mostly novels, from La Place de l’étoile