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What you don’t know about Patrick Modiano
October 30, 2014

Okay, so you heard the news. Earlier this month, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Patrick Modiano. Assuming you are not French, you would have likely reacted by going to Google to find out more about him. And why not? The English speaking world knows very little of Modiano as most of his works haven’t even been translated into English yet. Well, if indeed you are unfamiliar with Modiano, you will find this issue of the Book Lovers Club News to be particularly interesting.

Why Patrick Modiano?

Patrick Modiano So Wikipedia has already told us that Patrick Modiano was born in France in 1945 to a Belgian actress and a Jewish father. His childhood was less than ideal while he was being raised in the absence of his parents, and later in a second grade boarding school. We also know that he writes novels rooted in France during the German occupation of the Second World War. His characters are trying to deal with issues on memory, identity, loss and absence.

The Nobel Prize, given out by Sweden has often been used as an instrument of foreign policy. There has been much controversy over the Nobel Prize for Peace awardees. Candidates are said to be chosen based on the Swedish stand on a particular international issue. Note also the fact that, the Nobel Prize has become so prestigious that it attracts a lot of publicity internationally. The awardee receives not just the Prize money but also the power to influence popular opinion on an international level. Needless to say, on the national front, the awardee achieves ‘hero’ status.

We cannot ignore this context when we speak of Modiano’s nationality and the theme of his writing. He talks about the loss of Jewish identity and lives in France during the Second World War. We can recollect here that anti-Semitism has been on the rise in France off late. Popular news sites like the Guardian and BBC have reported a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe as late as August and September 2014. This anti-Semitism is a reaction to Israeli bombing in Gaza, when tension peaked a few months ago.

Post the Nobel, Modiano’s works will get an international push. Translations of his works will be on bestseller lists for some time now and needless to say, will influence public opinion. The Nobel Prize has been given out to two more Jews for their literary contribution earlier. Nelly Sachs and Samuel Agnon have received the prize in 1966 during a time when Israel was at war with neighboring forces.

Book Review Circle gossip

Patrick Modiano was given the Nobel for his ‘art of memory’ as the Swedish Academy put it. In this respect he has been compared to Marcel Proust, another famous French writer of the early 20th century. Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is an elaborate work of seven volumes. Somerset Maugham called this novel ‘the greatest fiction to date’.

Book Review Circle suggested read:

If you have to read just one work by Patrick Modiano, you could choose Dora Bruder. Dora Bruder is about the semi factual escapade of a Jewish girl in Nazi occupied Germany. Modiano follows her across the country and up to her murder in Auschwitz. The book is characteristic of the predominant themes of Modiano’s writings.

Test your Literary Quotient

See if you know answers to the following:
  1. What is the monetary worth of the Nobel Prize for Literature
  2. Modiano won the French award-Goncourt Literary Prize in 1978. Which novel did he win it for?
  3. Which country has bagged the maximum number of Nobel Prizes in Literature?


  1. 8 million kronor or 700,000 pounds
  2. Missing Person
  3. France. 17 Nobel laureates have been based out of France.
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Ok. I will leave you to munch on that.

Happy reading till we meet again.


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