Suspended Sentences

Three Novellas

Patrick Modiano; Translated by Mark Polizzotti

View Inside Price: $16.00

November 11, 2014
232 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
ISBN: 9780300198058
PB-with Flaps

Read a commentary from Mark Polizzotti on translating Modiano on the Yale Press Log.

A trio of intertwined novellas from the 2014 Nobel laureate for literature

In this essential trilogy of novellas by the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, French author Patrick Modiano reaches back in time, opening the corridors of memory and exploring the mysteries to be encountered there. Each novella in the volume--Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin—represents a sterling example of the author’s originality and appeal, while Mark Polizzotti’s superb English-language translations capture not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.

Although originally published separately, Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists.

Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.

Patrick Modiano is a best-selling novelist and the winner of some of the most prestigious literary awards in France, including the Prix Goncourt and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca for lifetime achievement. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for "the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French and is director of the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

“Vividly translated by Mark Polizzotti . . . [and] as good a place as any to enter the long, slow-moving river of Modiano’s fiction.”—Alan Riding, New York Times Book Review

“Elegant . . . quietly unpretentious, approachable . . . . Though enigmatic and open-ended, Modiano’s remembrances of things past and his probings of personal identity are presented with a surprisingly light touch. He is, all in all, quite an endearing Nobelist.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Haunting. . . . Modiano combines a detective’s curiosity with an elegist’s melancholy.”—Adam Kirsch, New Republic

“A timely glimpse at [Modiano’s] fixations . . . . In Mark Polizzotti’s spare and elegant translation, the writing conveys a sense of dreamy unease in which the real, the hypothesized, and the half-forgotten blend into a shimmering vagueness.”—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“Mr. Modiano writes clear, languid, and urbane sentences in Mr. Polizzotti’s agile translation . . . . These novellas have a mood. They cast a spell.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“[A] trilogy of novellas from the recent French Nobel Prize winner. . . . Fictions with a moral bite, depicting a world in which everyone, it seems, is complicit in crimes not yet specified. Moody, elegant and dour.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The three novellas that make up this exquisite collection are mysteries, albeit mysteries of an existential sort.”—David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“An excellent place to begin. . . . Here is the bracing darkness at the heart of Modiano’s vision of memory and modern day Paris, . . . a traveling back to travel forward, a journey these novellas pace with the elegance of a solitary walker, moving through a city’s streets, his collar up against the cold.”—John Freeman, Boston Globe

“Compelling. . . . Haunting. . . . Modiano’s unconventional accounts of vanished hours show how the urge to solve a long-lost crime, or to reclaim forgotten memories, ultimately leads to inscrutable vanishing points.”—Scott Esposito, San Francisco Chronicle

'The three novellas that make up Suspended Sentences offer a fine introduction to Modiano’s later work.'—The Economist

'Modiano is a pure original. He has transformed the novel into a laboratory for producing atmospheres, not situations - where everything must be inferred and nothing can be proved.'—Adam Thirlwell, The Guardian

“Brilliant”—New York Magazine “Approval Matrix”

“There are few modern writers as pleasurable or interesting to read. Modiano is one of the great writers of our time.”—David Herman, Jewish Chronicle

“Mesmerizing . . . evocative and nostalgic . . . These are stories that continue to haunt, even after the final page . . . For English-language readers, this collection serves as the discovery of a unique, masterful writer.”—Gila Wertheimer, Chicago Jewish Star

“[A] welcome translation . . . [Modiano’s] stories include suspenseful passages and are invariably absorbing . . . and offer much to ponder as one proceeds.”—John Taylor, Arts Fuse

“These three atmospheric novellas demonstrate the range of reading pleasure afforded by Modiano’s approach and the dark romance of his Paris. . . . Each first-person novella is also a portrait of the artist.”—Publishers Weekly

“A series of meditations on the mutability of memory . . . [that] accumulates force quietly and veers without warning into the dark precincts of Modiano’s life. . . . The writing, translated crisply by Mark Polizzotti, is laced with investigations and speculations, false leads and dead ends.”—Bill Morris, Daily Beast

'[The novellas] are an excellent introduction to the writer, not least because they show quite how much he retreads the same territory. . .Modiano is as accessible as he is engrossing.'—Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent

“Beautiful and fascinating”—M.A. Orthofer, Complete Review

“Striking and poignant.”—Kacy Muir, Weekender

'. . . the very resonance of the novellas resides in the way Modiano resists supplying easy solutions or proposing a didactic position. The Nobel laureateship has drawn attention to a writer whose work is engaging and thought-provoking. . .’—Alexander Adams, Spiked Online

“The voice of the narrator is clear and melodious . . . [as] three novellas progressively introduce the reader to the bifocal world of Modiano’s evocatively detailed but fragmented memory. Imagine a concert that starts with a sonata, is followed by a quartet, and ends with a full symphony.”—Marianne Veron, Moment magazine

“The three novellas in this book show a consistent, inherently logical artistic vision—a sign of a great writer. Modiano's sadness, expressed in his sparseness of style and in obsessive leitmotif connections, is unique.”—Aleksandar Hemon, The Week

"In poetic prose, Modiano evokes a Paris that no longer exists, yet lingers in the light and shadows of memory."—Jane Ciabattari,

“The three novellas in Suspended Sentences offer a vivid glimpse into Modiano's photographic remembrance of things past.”—Brandon Ambrosino, Vox

“Like [W.G.] Sebald, Modiano blends fact and fiction, memoir and reportage . . . obsessed with unearthing lives buried under the avalanche of time.”—Ryu Spaeth, the Week

“Reading Modiano is like experiencing a very specific flavor you don’t encounter every day—saffron or asafetida, say. He’s direct and precise, but also gently melancholy, like the squeezed essence of passing time. Mark Polizzotti’s translation expertly catches the timbre of his voice.”—Luc Sante

“Haunting. Like a master perfumer, Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano has crafted a signature scent: his unmistakable blend of nostalgia, grief, love, disquiet, Paris. In any translation, exotic décor comes easy but to capture the atmosphere of the words is much harder — Polizzotti succeeds beautifully in creating the impalpable magic of Modiano’s world in English.”—Damion Searls

Patrick Modiano is the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature

Dowload the reader’s guide and discussion questions for Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences.

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