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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Quietly exposing a hidden past

“Something happens between a novel and its reader which is similar to the process of developing photographs, the way they did it before the digital age. The photograph, as it was printed in the darkroom, became visible bit by bit. As you read your way through a novel, the same chemical process takes place.” Patrick Modiano

French writer Jean Patrick Modiano, who turned 71 yesterday, is the 2014 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, presented in recognition of his amazing and powerful lifetime body of work.  Interestingly, his many award-winning works, first produced in French, were not published in English until after the Nobel.  But they were known worldwide, having been translated into more than 30 other languages.  

Modiano's novels all delve into the puzzle of identity, and of trying to track evidence of existence through traces of the past. Obsessed with the troubled and shameful period of the World War II German Occupation of France—during which his father allegedly engaged in shady dealings—Modiano returns to this theme in all 30 of his novels.

A quiet, introspective man, he said “Writing is a strange and solitary activity.”  He started early, wanting an outlet to say something about things he had learned about those War years.  His first novel La Place de l'étoile (roughly translated as the place for the star) was published when he was just 22.  Thus he                                       
always encourages young writers to both follow their dreams and not to despair.

“Encourage aspiring writers to continue writing when things are going against them, when it feels hard,” he said.   “Explain the typical obstacles that occur, and encourage and reassure them to continue, never to give up.”

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