The Schmooze

Patrick Modiano: Writing and Rewriting Recent Jewish History

On June 9, French novelist Patrick Modiano will receive a prestigious literary prize from the Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca, previously given to Jean Anouilh, Jorge Luis Borges, and Milan Kundera.

Modiano, born in 1945, is the son of Albert Modiano, an Italian Jew with roots in Salonica, who survived the war as a clandestine black marketer. As a writer, Patrick Modiano has taken decades to sort out his feelings about his miscreant father, who avoided deportation through Gestapo connections and had illicit business dealings with the notorious Maurice Sachs.

Only a few Modiano titles have been translated into English, like 1978’s “Missing Person” (Rue des boutiques obscures) from David R. Godine, which tells the story of Guy Roland, a Parisian whose identity is lost during the Nazi Occupation. Also translated is 1997’s “Dora Bruder” (University of California Press), which was inspired by a 1941 newspaper want ad seeking a runaway 15-year-old Jewish girl, who turns out to have been deported to Auschwitz.

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Patrick Modiano: Writing and Rewriting Recent Jewish History

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