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They have what I take to be Modiano’s own interest in Paris streets, particularly those of the outskirts, and they ceaselessly list addresses, consult old directories, make calls to telephone numbers no longer in service.
His narrators are often given pieces of Modiano’s own identity, his age, his parents, his incomplete schooling, and sometimes his career – the narrator of , for instance, has written Modiano’s books.
He doesn’t tell us the title, or what else he has done, but he does say he is writing the current pages in 1992.
We know the narrator of was once a would-be writer, but we never know whether he made it, unless the novel itself is the proof.
In the second she is not Jewish, and what she has survived is a raffish 1960s youth which involved, among other things, a little larceny and a little prostitution, and hanging out with Peter Rachman in London.
The narrator also knows Rachman, and indeed visits a number of his properties with him.
The narrator of appears to have several of Modiano’s own memories, but he is a traveller and documentary film-maker – or he is until he decides to drop out of that career, and out of everything else.
He is remembering whole patches of the past, but what he really can’t forget is the barren present, the year on the current calendar.Just before he disappears, Jansen tries to get a copy of his birth certificate in order to prepare his travel documents and discovers that another Francis Jansen, also born in Belgium but in another town, was arrested in Rome, detained in the Fossoli camp, and deported in 1944 towards his death in an unknown time and place.Jansen tells the narrator the ‘truth that we intuit but hide from ourselves because we don’t care or because we are afraid: a brother, a double is dead instead of us in an unknown time and place, and we finally become indistinguishable from his shadow.’ Did Jansen somehow know this before he learned about his namesake?You think you know where you are, because the places are similar and the natives look alike.This is an error, because they are all about loss, and scrupulously, painfully remind us that no two losses are the same.