“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 novelist and 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Modiano turns 73 today and his analogy of the development of the novel “before our eyes” is a remarkable one that also gives us a bit of a look into his writing style. He lets the picture slowly unfold, sometimes leaving us startled, sometimes satisfied, sometimes angry, but always interested in what’s coming next.
His novels delve into the puzzle of identity in ways seldom seen. And, he tackles a time in France – the German occupation during World War II – that evokes both heroism and shame depending on whose point of view his tale is being told.
The winner of almost every major European and French writing award, he was honored for his life’s body of work even prior to winning the Nobel and was – up until that award – one of the few international writers whose work had never been translated into English.
Modiano expressed what most novelists feel about the writing process when he discussed “starting” a new work. “I quickly realized that it is difficult to get started when writing a novel. You have this dream of what you want to create, but it is like walking around a swimming pool and hesitating to jump in because the water is too cold.”
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