Monday, July 26, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: In the Cafe of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano

 I saw this post: French Books You Can Read in One Sitting at the Readerbuzz blog and, having read half of them at one time or another, decided to tackle one that was new to me. 

In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano (translated by Chris Clarke) is a lovely, sad novella that can be read for the beauty of the language and the intriguing structure and characters. I was pulled into it by the dream-like voice which continued on, with slight variation, through four different narrators. Their identities aren’t really important, except perhaps for Jacqueline (a.k.a. Louki), the female character at the center of the story. The others all tell of their fascination with the mysterious girl. When she speaks, relating her backstory, there is a frankness to it that should dispel the mystery, but doesn’t. It’s almost as if she doesn’t exist, despite drawing the attention of all the men she drifts near.

I’m not a huge fan of literature dealing with alienation. There is a hopelessness to those stories that seems melodramatic and a distance that keeps me from caring too much about the characters. (That distance is largely the point, but still.) Nevertheless, this book is touching and beautifully sorrowful. Of course it is. It’s French!

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