(translated by Mark Polizzotti)
“And yet, it was no dream. Sometimes I catch myself saying those words in the street, as if hearing someone else’s voice. A toneless voice. Names come back to me. Certain faces, certain details. No-one left to talk with about it. One or two witnesses must still be alive. But they’ve probably forgotten the whole thing. And in the end, I wonder whether there really were any witnesses.”
So opens this slim novel by Patrick Modiano. Nobel prize winning Modiano. He’s a slippery fucker. This is a kind of Lynch-world set among the ennui and cafes of Paris. The narrator recounts a surface of everyday mundanity with nothing going on. All the while there may have been a murder.
Of course there may not. Someone believed they heard gunshots, two gunshots, in a quiet end of town. A nondescript end of town. Because the town in question is Paris, there are long walks through boulevards, stopping in cafes, earnest conversations as the pedestrians kick their way through leaves and people don’t always leave places by the door they went in through.
There’s a woman, she may be 21 or 24 years of age, she goes by several different names, seems to have no home address and has all of her post delivered to a Poste Restante box, which she collects everyday. She may have fired the bullets.
“Let’s not talk about these depressing things…I dreamed I was in a flat and I shot a man in self-defence…A horrible man with heavy eyelids.“
There is a small group of people, one of whom may be the husband of the woman, this group all have names that slip on and slip off. They may not even be friends, perhaps they are just a group of people seen standing together in a hotel foyer one time. At least one of them, if not more, are believed to have connections to the Moroccan secret services.
One character is simply named “the corpse“. Although he or she may not be dead. In fact he or she may not exist.
When he gets to the door of the block of flats, he cannot open it. He cannot remember the 4-digit code to unlock it. Except in his dreams, when he always remembers the code first time and watches the door swing open before him. But he never wakes in time to note down the code.
The narrator may be called Jean…I might well have enjoyed this book.
“Life is full of stray bullets.“