Cover image for Suspended sentences : three novellas
Suspended sentences : three novellas
Modiano, Patrick, 1945- author.
Uniform Title:
Novels. Selections. English
Publication Information:
New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, [2014]

Physical Description:
xiii, 213 pages ; 20 cm.
General Note:
Originally published in French as: Chien de printemps, (1993); Remise de peine, (1988); and, Fleurs de ruine, (1991).
Afterimage -- Suspended sentences -- Flowers of ruin.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



A trio of intertwined novellas from the 2014 Nobel laureate for literature

In this essential trilogy of novellas by the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, French author Patrick Modiano reaches back in time, opening the corridors of memory and exploring the mysteries to be encountered there. Each novella in the volume-- Afterimage , Suspended Sentences , and Flowers of Ruin --represents a sterling example of the author's originality and appeal, while Mark Polizzotti's superb English-language translations capture not only Modiano's distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.

Although originally published separately, 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.

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 behavi∨ 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.

Author Notes

Paul Modiano is a French writer who was born on July 30, 1945, in Boulogne-Billancourt. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014 for his lifetime body of work. He previously won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012 and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for his lifetime achievement in 2010. His other awards include the Prix Goncourt in 1978 for his novel Rue des boutiques obscures and the Grand prix du roman de l'Académie française in 1972 for Les Boulevards de ceinture.

Modiano's works explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France and the puzzle of identity. His preoccupation with the theme of identity can be seen throughout many of his works including his 2005 memoir entitled Un Pedigree. Modiano was greatly influenced by his parents' relationship. His mother and father began their clandestine relationship during occupied France. Growing up, his father was absent for most of his life and his mother was away frequently while on tour acting. He was alone much of the time and went to school because of government aid. His younger brother died of a disease at age 10 and this added to his "lost identity" feelings while growing up.

Modiano first came to prominence in France when he wrote the 1968 book La Place de L'Étoile. He has published over 30 works which include novels, screenplays and children's books. His other works include: La Ronde de nuit (1969), English translation: Night Rounds; Rue des boutiques obscures (1978), English translation: Missing Person; and Quartier Perdu (1984), English translation: A Trace of Malice. Although he is well known in France, only about 12 of his works have been translated into English.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Much celebrated in France and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize, Modiano is little known in the U.S. While his style could not be more different from that of W. G. Sebald, they share a subject: the displaced, people too experienced with the arbitrariness of fate. Modiano focuses on Paris, the fallout from the Nazi occupation, and the legacy of Drancy, the nearby internment camp. All of the characters are, as the title suggests, guilty, and most will be or have already been arrested, in two senses. The narrators (or narrator; they do appear to be the same person) of these linked, autobiographical novellas are conducting investigations like amateur detectives, uncovering facts about each ambiguous figure who attracts their attention. Even Modiano's style, plain but elliptical and carefully wrought, keeps much of the action from view, as Modiano considers the modernization of Paris as a means of forgetting. It's as if all the characters are minor, so little can be known about them. But it is just as likely they have something to hide, even from themselves. Unforgettable.--Autrey, Michael Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This set of three newly translated novellas from 2014 Nobel winner Modiano is propitious in timing and format: the collection's variety gives curious readers a broad introduction to a writer of purposefully narrow scope. Modiano has facetiously admitted to repeatedly writing the same book, usually a meditative investigation winding its ways through the City of Lights to illuminate, though never fully reveal, some lingering mystery from the period of Nazi Occupation. These three atmospheric novellas demonstrate the range of reading pleasure afforded by Modiano's approach and the dark romance of his Paris, a city "in which adventure lay right around every street corner." "Afterimage," the tautest, most affecting work, is a shadowy tale in which a young writer obsessively catalogs the work of a haunted photographer who "did everything he could to be forgotten." The title novella, a child's eye view of the colorful gang of ex-circus performers and crooks who helped raise him, relates the boy's sense of wonder and confusion amid his charmed, if sordid, surroundings. In the slackest of the three, "Flowers of Ruin," a sensationalist double suicide case occasions a murky investigation into the gangsters and collaborators who sported "strange names and fake noble titles" during the Occupation. Each first-person novella is also a portrait of the artist: as the protagonists pursue the faint traces of people and places that have disappeared, we witness a doggedly inquiring writer slowly emerging before our eyes. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Planned as a February 2015 release but moved up when its author won the Nobel Prize, this volume collects three novellas that are quintessential Modiano. "Afterimages," whose narrator recalls a photographer acquaintance who was not what he seemed; "Suspended Sentences," about a boy raised by friends of his touring actress mother; and "Flowers of Ruin," whose protagonist revisits a site of his youth, where a mysterious double-suicide took place-all concern the uncertainty of memory. The result is elegantly meditative yet remote, a still lake reflecting itself; handy as an introduction to a world figure. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.