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I tried to read Patrick Modiano’s La Place de l’Étoile, which was his first novella and subsequent re-release as part of his Occupation Trilogy, better received, but I had to put it down. It had all the pretensions of a young writer doing a literary mind-dump about French collaborators during WWII. I subsequently came across Honeymoon which was his first novella after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Apart from the connection to WWII there is no comparison between the writing styles. The latter is more atmospheric and spare. The principal character and narrator Jean is captivated by a chance discovery of a suicide of a woman in his hotel, who turns out he knew, having spent time with her and her husband during WWII when the latter was sheltering her because of her Jewish religion during the war. In a French open marriage, the principal character abandons his career as a documentary film producer and hides from his wife and goes in search of the woman’s husband to uncover their history. All of this occurs in Paris where his wife is as if Jean is in an altered space and time. It is fitting that a Chirico graces the cover of the book, as there is a surreal feeling about the book. Jean, perhaps in a mid-life crisis, is bored with his life and existence and is in search of a spark through the mystery of a suicide.

It is the author’s style rather than the plot that makes this novella interesting. There is a quiet intensity even when there is no action. Modiano is a storyteller, but his mechanics are different. It is an interesting read in this regard.

 

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