IN THE CAFE OF LOST YOUTH, Patrick Modiano

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Four narrators, a student from a café, a private detective hired by an aggrieved husband, the heroine herself and one of her lovers, construct a portrait of Jacqueline Delanque, otherwise known as Louki.

The daughter of a single mother who works in the Moulin Rouge, Louki grows up in poverty in Montmartre. Her one attempt to escape her background fails when she is rejected from the Lycée Jules-Ferry. She meanders on through life, into a cocaine habit, and begins frequenting the Café Condé, whose regulars call her "Louki". She drifts into marriage with a real estate agency director, but finds no satisfaction with him or his friends and so makes the simple decision not to return to him one evening. She turns instead to a young man almost as aimless and adrift as she, but who perhaps loves her all the same.

Ever-present through this story is the city of Paris, almost another character in her own right. This is the Paris of 'no-man's-lands', of lonely journeys on the last metro, or nocturnal walks along empty boulevards; of cafés where the lost youth wander in, searching for meaning, and the older generation sift through their memories of their own long-gone adolescence.

Translated from the French by Euan Cameron

Paperback - B-format - 192pp - 12/01/2017 - £8.99 - 9780857055286

 

"Patrick Modiano is certainly the greatest contemporary French novelist. A magnetic novel, set in a magical Paris . . . A new jewel" Lire

"Some novels, the more precious and necessary, render their readers more vulnerable, disarmed and fragile. And such is the case with this deeply moving portrait of a woman so familiar, and yet so lost, drawn by Modiano at the exact border between shadow and light" PATRICK KECHICHIAN, Le Monde

"Those familiar with Modiano will recognise his themes, his settings, his characters. Yet there is never any repetition, or sense of déjà vu. Rather the sentiment that nothing is mere chance" Norbert Czarney, Quinzaine Littéraire

 

Elise Williams