Translated by Phoebe Weston-Evans
Late at night, long ago, when I was about to turn twenty-one, I was crossing Place des Pyramides on my way to Place de la Concorde when a car appeared suddenly from out of the darkness. At first I thought it had just grazed me, then I felt a sharp pain from my ankle to my knee…
In the opening scene of Paris Nocturne, the nameless narrator is hit by a car near Place des Pyramides. He and the woman driving the car are taken in a police van to the hospital. He’s sure he has met her somewhere. He is given ether, wakes up in a different hospital, and the woman, Jacqueline Beausergent, has vanished. A mysterious figure presents him with an account of the accident and hands him an envelope stuffed with bank notes.
Does Jacqueline Beausergent have the answers to the narrator’s questions about the past, about his father? He will comb the city’s cafes and stations to find her.
Paris Nocturne is like a mystery novel in which we are searching for the crime itself, as Modiano relentlessly explores the elusive nature of memory.
‘Paris Nocturne is a discreet book, a perfect book.’
‘Paris Nocturne is cloaked in darkness, but it is a novel that is turned towards the light.’
‘Throughout these books, Modiano tackles thoughtfully and with great imaginative sympathy, that most necessary and problematic part of the human psyche – our relationship with the past.’
‘These novels [Paris Nocturne and Little Jewel] are not just a collection of marks on a collection of pages but a metaphysical archive of a time of complex personal and collective trauma. In Modiano, the city is a mirror, each of its streets a palimpsest. We gain access to an inner life that otherwise goes undetected.’
‘[Modiano] has produced a slim volume of lyrical, elegant writing, a tale of substantial detail on the nebulous nature of memory.’
‘Reading Modiano’s elegant and evocative prose is a mesmerising experience. Searching for identity and connection, it throws up more questions than answers and will have you hooked to the end.’
‘A swift nighttime noir.’