Missing Person

Missing Person

Book - 2014
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In this strange, elegant novel, Modiano portrays a man in pursuit of the identity he lost in the murky days of the Paris Occupation, the black hole of French memory. On one level a detective thriller, Missing Person is also a haunting meditation on the nature of the self. For ten years Guy Roland has lived without a past. Even his name was given to him by his benefactor, C. M. Hutte, who had welcomed this lost soul - originally his client - into employment at his detective agency. Now in retirement in Nice, Hutte has left Guy his office full of directories, yearbooks, and files of all kinds going back fifty years - pages that list people, things, vanished worlds, to which they alone bear witness. Guy is on his own, and his leads are few. All that remains of the person he had once been is a dim shape in the minds of two acquaintances, both society bartenders. Could he really be that figure in a photograph, standing beside an ash-blonde woman that one of the bartenders says had green eyes? Or is he perhaps the French aristocrat whose entry disappeared from the social register years before? He has sifted through strangers' recollections for traces of himself and of his supposed sweetheart, a Russian ballerina from Megeve - a couple who left nothing but a blur behind them. Missing Person is an extraordinary evocation of Paris in the 1930s and 1940s - the curious, muffled network of loose contacts, smoky cafes, illegal passports, and insubstantial figures crossing bridges in the fog. Patrick Modiano's spare, hypnotic prose, superbly translated by Daniel Weissbort, draws his readers into the intoxication of a rare literary experience.
Publisher: Boston, Mass. : David R. Godine, 2014, c1980
ISBN: 9781567922813
Branch Call Number: MOD
Characteristics: 167 p. ;,21 cm
Additional Contributors: Weissbort, Daniel

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1
1aa
Dec 20, 2017

The basic idea of the book - that an amnesiac man who works for a newly retired private investigator decides to find out about himself - is inherently interesting, but I found the book rather flagging for almost its entire length (and its only 167 pages long); perhaps it would have worked better as a sort of fable; there were no wondrous insights expressed aphoristically, and the tone was rather flat throughout; I had to push myself a but just to finish it.

i
ilovesfpl8392
Jun 17, 2015

What if the missing person you are investigating is your own lost identity? A fascinating story.

m
mclarjh
Apr 01, 2015

Reminds me of Roberto Bolano's "The Savage Detectives" in a way.

j
JimLoter
Feb 11, 2015

Guy Roland suffers from amnesia, and after 10 years of living in Paris under an assumed identity, he embarks on a quest to discover his past. Modiano's take on memory and remembrance should be compared (and, importantly, contrasted) to Proust's - Roland spends the length of the novella looking for his memory-triggering madeleine - a photograph, a name in a phone directory, a dressmaker's mannequin, a voice on the telephone, a brass handrail. But every potential cookie either leads to dead ends, unreliable sources, or memories of questionable veracity.

A particularly nice recurring motif involves Roland being given collections of keepsakes and artifacts that belonged to others as if his past can only be reconstructed out of the detritus of those who he may (or may not) have known (or been). "It certainly seemed everything ended with old chocolate or biscuit or cigar boxes." In a way, Roland relies on the memories of others to help him reconstruct his own and becomes a construct rather than a blank slate - which, perhaps, we all are anyway.

Reading "Missing Person" is also a little like experiencing "L'année dernière à Marienbad." Like that film, the structure is non-linear, the interactions between characters are rather dreamlike, and the depictions of past events are always bathed in a fog of ambiguity.

k
kennethek
Feb 09, 2015

The cat can flat out write. Funny nobody ever heard of him but that's how you win a Nobel. This is a fun read. easy. simple. Can't wait to get to the head of the line for his novellas.

p
pgproulx
Oct 09, 2014

Où est la version originale?

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