Friday, October 10, 2014

Patrick Modiano: "A modern Proust"

Now be honest. Did you know the name Patrick Modiano before it was announced that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday? You did? Well, you are obviously much better read than I.

I don't recall ever having heard the name before, but then I am certain there are any number of fine writers in the world of whom I have never heard. And every year in October I can count on the Swedish Academy bringing one of them to my and the world's attention.

The Nobel is almost always awarded to someone who is unfamiliar to me, which truly doesn't say much for the quality of my literacy or the eclecticism of my reading selections. I did know last year's winner Alice Munro, although to be honest I had not read more than a smidgen of her work. Short stories are really not my thing.

But I was totally unfamiliar with the Chinese novelist Mo Yan who won in 2012 and he is, apparently, a very big wheel in the literary world. Nor did I know Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer who won in 2011. The last one that I really knew and had read and enjoyed was 2010's winner Mario Vargas Llosa.

So I do appreciate the Swedish Academy's efforts to broaden my literary horizons.

After Mo Yan won, my husband, the literary groupie, jumped on his bandwagon and ordered some of his books. I know he read at least one and seemed to enjoy it. I have intended to read it as well, but so far, it languishes on his Kindle awaiting my attention. My TBR list is sooooooo long...  

He didn't waste any time this year. As soon as he heard yesterday that Modiiano had won, he immediately ordered one of his books, Missing Person. They weren't available on Kindle so he had to order an actual paper copy. Another one for that long TBR list.

Mr. Modiano sounds very interesting and I'm glad to learn about him. In announcing the award, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy described him as a "Marcel Proust of our time." (Having struggled through Swann's Way earlier this year, I could hope that Modiano's writing might flow a bit more easily through the brain.) His writing is said to be about memory, loss, identity, and about seeking those things. His novels are most often set during the Nazi occupation of France or to involve events that happened during that occupation. That's not a period of history that I ordinarily particularly enjoy reading about, but I'm willing to make an exception for a Nobel winner.

The French are said to be bursting with pride over their latest Nobel winner - as well they should be. It appears to be a well-deserved recognition for a fine writer and I look forward to acquainting myself with his books.


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