So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood (“Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier”), by Patrick Modiano
An agile and elliptical investigation, immersed in the shadows of memory, So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood embodies Modiano’s style in all its splendour, the very year in which the writer was honoured with the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Patrick Modiano, Nobel Prize in Literature
Between an absent father with troubled relationships and a mother who was a touring singer, Patrick Modiano grew up with only the friendship of his brother as an anchor– a brother who sadly died very young – and the kind mentorship of Raymond Queneau, a friend of the family.
After ending his unfinished philosophy studies, the young Modiano sought salvation in writing, with The Place of the Star (“La Place de l'Étoile”) (1967), the first in a long series of novels, such as Family History ("Livret de famille”) (1977) and A Pedigree (“Un Pedigree”) (2005).
In 2014, Patrick Modiano received the Nobel Prize in Literature, which rewards his "art of memory", his only release from a childhood fraught with family struggles and the Occupation.
In Search of a Lost Name
In keeping with Patrick Modiano’s favourite themes, So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood (2014) explores the intricacies memory. Here, it is an address book first lost, then found, which leads a sixty-something writer to unearth buried memories.
Although Jean Daragane in fact has little interest in uncovering snippets of his youth, he is contacted by a man named Gilles Ottolini, who has found the book and is interested in one of the names listed there.
One thing leads to another as Jean Daragane follows the path of the past, which brings him to the suburbs of his childhood, to a woman who mattered, a certain Annie Astrand.
Writing as a mirror
By choosing a character who is a writer, born like him around 1945, Patrick Modiano offers a reflection on his profession and the role of writing in the life of a novelist. So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood further explores the impossibility of recovering, through writing, Marcel Proust’s beloved "lost time".
In an interview with Gallimard, the author compares his own methods to those of the main character, Jean Daragane, who writes a children’s novel for the sole purpose of finding a woman. Like him, Patrick Modiano sprinkles names and details from reality in his books, leaving the reader to untangle them from the fictions.
The Marcel Proust of our time
A true icon in France, Patrick Modiano has, until recently, remained little known abroad. Missing Person (“Rue des boutiques obscures”), honoured in 1978 with a prestigious Prix Goncourt, only sold 2,500 copies in the United States.
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood, published in 2014, benefited from the international visibility of the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded to the author the same year. Emblematic of his work, it is the ideal introduction to the man who the Nobel Committee called the “Marcel Proust of our time” when granting the award. Since 2015, the novel has been one of the dozen or so Modiano works available in English.
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood (“Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier”) has been translated into Dutch, Arabic, Estonian, Ukrainian, Malayalam, Hindi and Russian with the support of the Institut français.
Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature.