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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

    

Paris Nocturne

by
Patrick Modiano


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Paris Nocturne



Title: Paris Nocturne
Author: Patrick Modiano
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 148 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Paris Nocturne - US
Paris Nocturne - UK
Paris Nocturne - Canada
Accidente nocturno - Canada
Accidente nocturno - France
Unfall in der Nacht - Deutschland
Incidente notturno - Italia
Accidente nocturno - España
  • French title: Accidente nocturno
  • Translated by Phoebe Weston-Evans

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Our Assessment:

B+ : foggily atmospheric, typical Modiano

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Australian . 12/9/2015 Gregory Day
FAZ . 27/5/2006 Joseph Hanimann
NZZ . 29/4/2006 B.V.Heilig
The NY Times Book Rev. . 13/12/2015 Kaiama L. Glover
Sydney Morning Herald . 1/8/2015 Simon Caterson
World Lit. Today . 5-6/2016 Gerald Prince
Die Zeit . 9/3/2006 Joseph Hanimann


  From the Reviews:
  • "As the narrator begins an obsessive investigation into the circumstances and people involved in the accident we find ourselves bound again into the Modiano echo chamber." - Gregory Day, The Australian

  • "Das Skelett des Buches ist allerdings nicht der Roman selber. Die Geschichte ist, wie immer bei diesem Autor, überaus spannend. Ebenfalls wie immer will man jedoch nicht vorrangig wissen, wie sie ausgeht. Vielmehr möchte man mit Modiano unterwegs sein." - Joseph Hanimann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Ein schwebendes, tastendes Sich-Erweitern und Sich-Erhellen einstiger Wahrnehmungen, die, von anderen überblendet, im Dunkel schlummern -- daraus erwachsen, ohne je eine kohärente «Geschichte» zu bilden, die Konturen eines verlassenen Kindes, eines einsamen Halbwüchsigen zwischen immer neuen Wohnorten, Schulen, Fremden." - Barbara Villiger Heilig, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "In the end, more than the mysterious woman it is the idea of coherence he pursues" - Kaiama L. Glover, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Like the Guy Pearce character in the Christopher Nolan film Memento, the protagonist in Paris Nocturne struggles to piece together the mystery, hampered by his own fractured consciousness. To add to the difficulty, the memory of the accident is at times confused in his mind with that of a similar incident that occurred in childhood -- or did it ?" - Simon Caterson, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Substantially autobiographical, like so much of the author’s fiction, the text contains many elements familiar to Modiano’s readers. (...) Finally, there is Modiano’s limpid and elliptical style, blending vagueness and precision, realism and dreaminess, and there are numerous questions that find no answer." - Gerald Prince, World Literature Today

  • "Wenn ein Autor wie Patrick Modiano einen Déjà-vu-Roman schreibt, weiß man, woran man ist. (...) Erzählt wird das komplexe Ereignisgefüge dieses Romans aus einer Perspektive, die ferne Vergangenheit, unmittelbare Gegenwart und allerlei Zwischenepochen in einen kunstvollen Zeitnebel taucht." - Joseph Hanimann, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Paris Nocturne has its narrator look back -- to: "a time long ago", when he was still underage (in France at that time) but already entirely independent, and he was involved in an accident, hit by a car. Whisked off first by the police and then to a clinic, he is in something of a haze for a while -- and, from the distance, indistinct memory further blurs his recollections. When he is discharged, he is told: "it would be better for me and for everyone else if I forgot about the accident" and given an envelope with "a wad of banknotes", a significant amount of money. Of course, he can't forget -- and he can't let it go. He goes in search of the mysterious woman who was apparently driving the car and also slightly injured, as well as the handler who gave him the cash (and when he finds him, tries to give the money back).
       It is a typical Modiano tale, focused yet again on the time when he is at the cusp of full adulthood, already living on his own, in hotels in Paris, and distant from his parents, struggling for connections, wandering the streets at all hours:

In the streets at night, I had the impression I was living another life, a more captivating one, or quite simply, that I was dreaming another life.
       The accident is one of those defining moments, breaking him out of an aimless rut -- even if it takes him a while to make some sense of it and its consequences:
The accident the night before did not happen by chance. It marked a breach of continuity. The shock was good for me, and it occurred in time for me to make a new start in life.
       He recalls walking up to the accident, finding himself almost completely removed from the world around him: "I had never experienced such a profound silence around me. Not a single car" -- before being mowed down, and woken up from his reverie. The narrator describes being adrift much of the time here, often wandering in a fog; after the accident, there is more of a focus and determination, at least some of the time.
       He obsesses over it for quite a while, connecting it also to a similar accident he recalls from childhood, a memory brought back only by the smell of ether -- which, of course, itself makes for a hazy impression; as he admits: "Ether made me both remember and forget".
       Paris Nocturne is a quest-tale, the narrator specifically looking for the mystery-woman, hunting down possible leads and also randomly searching. The man connected to the case also interests him, a type reminding him of his own father and his shady milieu.
       Another of those "fugitive faces from this period" who comes back to mind is a Dr Bouvière, a sort of guru holding court whose circle the narrator sometimes joined. He is another dubious figure, and the narrator sees how he, or someone like him, might have ensnared him:
I don't know how I managed to escape these dangers. I was just as vulnerable as the rest. Nothing really distinguished me from all the other disoriented listeners who congregated around Bouvière. I, too, needed some certainties. How on earth had I avoided this trap ? Thank goodness for my laziness and indifference.
       He does latch on to a girl from that circle, but his quest remains for the mystery woman. He wants answers to the circumstances surrounding the accident, and those involved. They do connect, eventually -- she even claims to have also been looking for him, but notes also:
Paris is big ... You have to be careful ... People like us end up getting lost.
       Written for such distance, the focus is often on memory, the narrator noting:
Whole sections of our lives end up slipping into oblivion and, sometimes, tiny little sequences in between as well.
       Paris Nocturne is very much part of Modiano's œuvre, featuring a familiar protagonist yet again at this stage in his life. As always, Modiano does this atmosphere of dredged up distant recollections very well, some sharp lucidity -- of specific moments and sensations -- all the more striking in the general fogginess and uncertainty. Like quite a few of Modiano's other novels, it feels very much like part of a larger story, but it stands up reasonably well on its own as well
       Yet another solid piece of work, if not quite a true stand-out.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 October 2018

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Links:

Paris Nocturne: Reviews: Patrick Modiano: Other books by Patrick Modiano under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Patrick Modiano was born in 1945. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014.

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© 2018 the complete review

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