Suspended Sentences Three Novellas Patrick Modiano, Mark Polizzotti

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
23 Apr 2015
Yale University Press
232 pages: 197 x 127 x 14mm
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Patrick Modiano is Winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature
Although originally published separately, Patrick Modiano's three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers-each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. In this superb English-language translation of Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, Mark Polizzotti captures not only Modiano's distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.
Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano's fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person's confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano's trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.

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Read more about Patrick Modiano's Suspended Sentences on the YaleBooks blog

Patrick Modiano is a best-selling novelist and the winner of some of the most prestigious literary awards in France, including the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca for lifetime achievement. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation’. Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French and is director of the publications programme at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

"The Nobel Prize committee's abrupt elevation of Patrick Modiano to international prominence makes the publication of these three works particularly valuable; not only has very little of the author's work appeared in English, but Mark Polizzotti's long experience as editor, publisher, and translator, together with his truly astonishing familiarity with the French language, has advantageously equipped him to execute his finely-tuned English renderings of these discreetly complex texts. Modiano belongs to one of the great traditions of French fiction, inaugurated by Madame de Lafayette's The Princess of Cleves, continued (this is a very short list) in Marivaux's novels, later in Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons and Flaubert's Three Tales and A Sentimental Education, in the 20th century variously developed by its three great Raymonds - Radiguet, Roussel, and Queneau - and, greatest of all, Marcel Proust, and in our own time flourishing anew in the pages of Patrick Modiano and Jean Echenoz. To the thousands of French readers of Modiano, declaring him a great writer is obvious, necessary, and inexplicable: he and his tradition depend on intimacy, precision, and a ruthless avoidance of reassuring conclusions - that is, modest qualities. Modiano's tales are mostly centered on life in outlying parts of Paris during and after World War II; place and time are rendered with alluring exactness, as are their fugitive inhabitants, and all are then inevitably lost in a blur of evanescent clues that leave nothing but an hallucinatory melancholy behind: a melancholy that enchants a rediscovered world with mysterious, hopeless magic. Modiano has said of his work, "I have always felt that I've been writing the same book for the past 45 years"; but each novel is unflaggingly fresh, with writing of exemplary purity, depending on nothing but itself for the reality it creates. Now, with Suspended Sentences in hand, you can enter this hauntingly vivid new world. I strongly urge you not to let the opportunity pass you by." - Harry Mathews

"Haunting. Like a master perfumer, Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano has crafted a signature scent: his unmistakable blend of nostalgia, grief, love, disquiet, Paris ..." - Damion Searls

"The three novellas included in this volume by this year's Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano offer eloquent testimony to the writer's remarkable gift for evoking the power of the past over human lives and destinies, and the ephemeral and ultimately mysterious nature of human relationships ... this small volume will familiarize Anglophone readers with the talent and genius of France's best- kept literary secret." - Richard J. Golsan, Texas A&M University

"Patrick Modiano, that great chronicler of lost souls, is at his masterful best in these three linked short novels, which have been expertly translated by Mark Polizzotti ... No living author has rendered the melancholy of incomplete histories and 'suspended sentences' more beautifully than Modiano. Already a revered author in France, he is sure to gain world-wide admiration and enthusiastic readers as a result of his well-deserved Nobel Prize for Literature." - Susan Rubin Suleiman, Harvard University, author of Crises of Memory and the Second World War

"These novellas resemble a cross between metaphysical mystery tale and lyrical memoir... Mark Polizzotti's translation catches the lilt and tone of Modiano's singularly evocative prose." - Steven Ungar, University of Iowa

"These three atmospheric novellas demonstrate the range of reading pleasure afforded by Modiano's approach and the dark romance of his Paris ... each first-person novella is also a portrait of the artist." - Publishers Weekly