Patrick Modiano: Villa triste



Ning to have lived in the small French town like that of Yvonne and Menthe who seemed to have experienced an idyllic life rowing up there Victor feels like a man a race without a country I could speculate for days on just this paragraph Early on you learn Victor is Jewish passing himself as a Count a fake persona perhaps as he and his family did during the war He is always running has no home The so called palaces were the words used by the parentshimself in describing the different hiding locations and that exotic palace reference kept the deceptionthe discovery of their disguises less frightening These are just my interpretations of one paragraph you will have to come to your own conclusions should you choose to read this book I would suggest researching the author and some of his other works to help explain his thought processes prior to reading 4 Modiano stars on a scale only of Patrick Modiano novelsMy favorite novelists all published first or second novels that established them as immediate or soon to be literary stars Anita Brookner with A Start in Life and Providence Henry Green with Blindness and Living Alice McDermott with A Bigamist s Daughter and That Night Marilynne Robinson with Housekeeping and Philip Roth with Goodbye Columbus Less so Patrick Modiano whose initial three novels or novellas if you prefer were topically striking but did not fully foreshadow the future Nobel laureate s Verdammt verliebt greatness But with Villa Triste his fourth novel Patrick Modiano emerges as the Patrick Modiano of his mature fiction While Villa Triste does not display the perfection of In the Caf of Lost Youth or the near perfection of Sundays in August it showcases the themes the emotions and the mysteries of both As typical of later Modiano novels Villa Triste centers on a mysterious young man s nostalgia for a bygone time a bygone love and a bygone city In Villa Triste the nostalgia is that of Victor Chmara reminiscing about his love and life almost thirteen years earlier in about 1962 when he was eighteen Modiano provides few clues of Chmara s past Where did Chmararow up Alexandria Lisbon Paris Brussels Constantinople or Berlin all mentioned by Modiano as possibilities Chmara is apparently stateless perhaps living in some danger and perhaps fleeing an only partially revealed past What was there for me to fear The noise of war the din of the world would have had to pass through a wall of cotton wall to reach this holiday oasis And who would have ever thought of coming to look for me among these distinguished summer vacationers Does Chmara worry about discovery because he s avoiding military service The young men well behaved and romantic would be sent to Algeria Not me Is Chmara a Russian count No not possible Modiano a cineaste even in this early novel reveals that Bella Darvi and Victor are cousins Victor Jewish as is Darvi imagines himself as Arthur Miller and imagines a future as a Jewish writer and wearing thick horn rimmed spectacles Also typical of Modiano s later novels Yvonne Pacuet Chmara s lost love in Villa Triste has an only partially revealed past Yvonne is an aspiring film actress remembered by Victor as attractive as Marilyn Monroe And again typical of later Modiano novels the romance and the sex between Victor and Yvonne exist only as delicate hints As in Sundays in August Modiano provides a shady older consort for the couple with a large showy automobile For Modiano the role of the consort the third wheel is especially important Here s Victor talking about Doctor Ren Meinthe the consort in Villa Triste There are some mysterious persons always the same ones who stand like sentinels at every crossroads in your life Villa Triste was published in 1975 when Modiano was thirty Even at thirty he had already honed his ability to engage readers through memories and mysteries The memories in Villa Triste as in Modiano s later novels are partial and often unclear inviting the reader to reminisce along with the reminiscing characters Chmara tells us for example that Yvonne s family name has just come back to me The mysteries the incomplete backgrounds of characters the partial explanations of past events and the hints of what s occurred between the remembered time and the present transform Modiano novels into interactive experiences for the reader we remember along with Modiano s characters and we involve ourselves in trying solve the. Meets the flamboyant doctor René Meinthe and the mysterious auburn haired Yvonne Victor uickly embraces their world of pageants soirées and late night debauchery and settles into an endless summer with Yvonne But René and Yvonne’s lives are also full of unanswered uestions an.

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Three characters meet in the 60 s in a small French town located on a lake across from Switzerland and everyone seems to be living in the past Victor the main protagonist and Yvonne an actress although they all appear to be acting and Dr Menthe we learn his father was a martyr of the French Resistance The description of the hotels and cafes in this small town as well as the automobiles the way the people dress it all appears like the 40 s when there was danger from the Occupation Time has stood still Danger from war is one subject Victor refers to often Is he safe Using a false identity he is not Victor much less a Count as he claims Everyone just keeps living and lying perhaps much as it was during the German Occupation in the 40 s Not much has changed with the exception of the presence of the Occupation there is no danger any or is there so stop the pretending and The Way Between the Worlds (The View from the Mirror, get on with the present and the future But Victor lives in the past He holds on to mementos from the past material or mental he holds on He cannot free himself and lives with anxiety and fear yet thoroughly enjoying the company of Yvonne and the lifestyle she and Dr Meinth have in this small town If this review sounds a bit confusing well that is how I found this book Confusing at times but I still felt compelled to finish this true work of art this beautifully written piece of literature Melancholy sucked me in from the beginning with a Great Dane dog that also appears to be acting to each of the characters who seem to be suspended in time slow moving who they are past and present what are they doing in this small town are all pieces of a puzzle that need to be assembled bit by bit Victor randomlyives information along the way but never enough to build the complete picture for me Why did I bother to finish reading this book I felt if I kept reading it would all come together and make perfect sense The methodic storytelling captured my curiosity as the style of writing is dream like Surely I would eventually comprehend the story fully the characters purpose and connection to one another their past their present But it was not meant to be I did connect a few of the dots to this puzzle but mostly speculation as the author confirms very little for me Even in the end right up to the last sentences the author plays with my curiosity A suitcase left behind at the train station why I m curious as to what was inside and I uestion the symbolic meaning the author had in this action Sadly I need a college professor to help me decipher it all Confusing yet compelling not a book for everyone 4 stars for the compelling nature that kept me reading 3 stars for the story line as I could not et the pieces to come together and satisfy my curiosity About the AuthorA little research online helps me better understand this author which helps me confirm some of my thoughts about this book Apparently all of his works are of similar themes His novels delve into the puzzle of identity and of trying to track evidence of existence through the traces of the past Obsessed with the troubled and shameful period of the Occupation during which his father had allegedly engaged in shady dealings Modiano returns to this theme in all of his novels book after book building a remarkably homogeneous work After each novel I have the impression that I have cleared it all away he says But I know I ll come back over and over again to tiny details little things that are part of what I am In the end we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born He writes constantly about the city of Paris describing the evolution of its streets its habits and its people thoughts on a few lines from the book Page 137Victor s identity becomes clearThe rooms in the palaces fool you at first but pretty soon their dreary walls and furniture begin to exude the same sadness as the accommodations and shady hotels Insipid luxury sickly sweet smell in the corridors which I can t identify but must be the very odor of anxiety of instability of exile of phoniness A smell that has always accompanied me My interpretationVictor in his youth along with his family were hunted by the Nazis constantly on the run changing identities hiding out in different palaces and it haunts him for a lifetime He reveals that he never lived in one place he shares he has anxiety and talks of exile feeling he does not belong anywhere year. What was I doing at the age of eighteen on the shore of that lake in that fashionable spa resort Nothing At the outbreak of the Algerian war a young man who calls himself Victor Chmara flees Paris for a small lakeside town on the border of France and Switzerland It’s here that he.

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Mysteries of their pasts and futures that Modiano only partially reveals Summer of 1962 A small French resort on the shores of a lake not far from the Swiss border A uiet little place forgotten by all except its inhabitants and the smattering of uests it receives during the holidays An 18 year old young man arrives in town with a fake name and a made up past What transpires over the next few months is the subject of this strange little novel which somehow put me in mind of the two Alains Alain Fournier s Le Grand Meaulnes the Modiano has a melancholic bent whose sentences vibrate like a spider s web with a kind of menace We are never really sure who deserves the most scrutiny amongst his characters but everyone in this novel seems to be hiding some dark past or rim present Even the dog a Great Dane was congenitally afflicted with sadness and the ennui of life In Modiano s lavish description of the locale a fashionable small French resort across a lake from Switzerland even the trees are a mystery The vegetation here is thoroughly mixed it s hard to tell if you re in the Alps on the shores of the Mediterranean or somewhere in the tropics Umbrella pines Mimosas Fir trees Palms If you take the boulevard up the hillside you discover the panorama the entire lake the Aravis mountains and across the water the elusive country known as SwitzerlandWhy elusive We never learn why I didn t yet know that Switzerland doesn t exist Perhaps it is the notion of safety that doesn t exist A nineteen year old is not expected to know that not then not now Modiano liberally salts his work with phrases that fill us with an unnameable dread Count Victor is no Count than you or I but somehow we d rather believe that than whatever it is he is running from He is the son of Russian Jews and the Second World War is over at least fifteen years He is wealthy beyond imagining but he has fear he s scared to death he tells us early on as he recounts the time he met Yvonne and Meinthe When I think of her today that s the image that comes back to me most often Her smile and her red hair The black and white dog beside her The beige Dodge And Meinthe barely visible behind the windshield And the switched on headlights And the rays of the sun Modiano writes like a painter paints He weaves sound and scent along with color and emotion light and dark We returned through a part of the arden I wasn t familiar with The ravel paths were rectilinear the lawns symmetrical and laid out in picturesue English style Around each of them were flamboyant beds of begonias or eraniums And here as well there was the soft reassuring whisper of the sprinklers I thought about the Tuileries of my childhood Meinthe proposed that we have a drinkIn the end the three of them The Count Yvonne and Meinthe make uite a hit in that town at that time Photographs show them lamorous and solemn walking arm in arm beside the dog Meinthe taking up the rear Meinthe and Yvonne win the coveted Houligant Cup for that year and are sought after companions for their edgy stylishness Gradually Meinthe and Yvonne share pieces of their shadowy background with Victor and the lamour he realizes is all rhinestones and rust The rooms in palaces fool you at first but pretty soon their dreary walls and furniture begin to exude the same sadness as the accommodations in shady hotels Insipid luxury sickly sweet smell in the corridors which I can t identify but must be the very odor of anxiety of instability of exile of phoniness When France suddenly seemed to Victor too narrow a territory he proposed they ditch the local act and take to the road somewhere where they could show their true capabilitiesAmerica Later when it is all over we think that perhaps Victor s fear stems from his youth his aloneness his uncertainty He The Horse in Celtic Culture grew up that summer by the lake and saw most of what there was to see Later when he ambles under the arcades on the Rue de Castiglione reading a newspaper his education comes full circle and the mystery begins againPromotional copy for Villa Triste due out today in a new translation by John Cullen and published by Other Press calls it Modiano s most accessible novel It may well be but all Modiano sreat themes are present This fine translation does justice to the underlying reatness of the work A fine piece of literature that can keep you mulling events over in your head for a long time to come. D half truths As he looks back years later Victor remains beguiled by those lost unknowable friends and the enchanted place he chose to leave behind One of Modiano’s most elegiac and haunting novels Villa Triste is an intoxicating investigation into time place identity and memory.

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