Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier?
This sentence is the one that the NobelPrize.org translator has left in French in the following excerpted “free English (not literal) [translation] of a telephone interview in French with Patrick Modiano following the announcement of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, 9 October 2014. The interviewer is Hélène Hernmarck of Nobel Media.”
[HH] My name is Hélène and I’m calling from Nobelprize.org. Thank you for giving us the time to ask you a few questions.
[PM] Ah, yes, yes, yes.
[HH] Where were you when you received the news?
[PM] I was actually in the street. Yes, I was in the street. It was my daughter who notified me.
[HH] Oh your daughter called you on your mobile?
[PM] Yes, yes, yes. I was very touched. It gave me even greater pleasure because I have a Swedish grandson.
[HH] Where were you, in the centre of Paris? In which particular street?
[PM] Oh, I was just next to the Jardin de Luxembourg….
[HH] You’ve written 20 or 30 books. Is there a certain book that you take greater pleasure in, which signifies more to you than the others?
[PM] Listen, it’s difficult. I always have the impression that I write the same book. Which means it’s already 45 years that I’ve been writing the same book in a discontinuous manner. You don’t really know your reader.
[HH] Now that you will become world famous which book would you recommend everyone to read?
[PM] Yes, I always have the impression that’s the last book I write.
[HH] What’s the title?
[PM] It’s called Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.
[HH] Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier?
[PM] Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.It’s about losing perspective within your surroundings. The last book is always the one I recommend because it leaves you …
[HH] Wishing for more?
[PM] Yes, yes.
And, Henri Astier, for BBC News, makes these additional, related and somewhat pertinent observations:
Only a handful of his 25-odd novels have been translated into English.
One reason for this might be that Modiano’s storylines are as slim as the books themselves. They usually centre on young men cast adrift among high-living crooks in 1960s Paris. There is a sense of threat, but little is explained.
The plot, however, matters much less than the feelings evoked by his deceptively simple prose. Blurred memory plays a key role. Modiano’s narrators try to make sense of half-remembered events from their youth, looking back through a glass darkly.
The lack of clarity goes hand in hand with geographical precision – with each Paris location overlaid with layers of imperfect memories. The poetic character of Modiano’s writing may explain why few have ventured to translate him so far.