In the writing of Patrick Modiano, the narrator is in continual motion, drifting from one temporary location to the next. Streets and buildings are more vivid in memory than the people with secret agendas who gather in bars to drink but not reveal themselves. The absence of connection creates in the author a feeling of permanent longing. It’s what a writer needs to remain in search of love. When I read Modiano (most recently “The Hat” in the current Paris Review), I feel the despair of the abandoned child, deserted by his actress mother who wants a life of her own. She seldom seems to recognize she has a son, like the mother in 400 Blows with her lover and sullen irritation with things domestic. I identify with the females wanting freedom, although these mothers in particular are vain, foolish, and heartless as portrayed by their neglected sons. I imagine if I had had a child, I would have kissed and hugged the person regardless of my sense of entrapment. I flatter myself, perhaps. What I can more easily see is the sorrow of the abandoned child, the sons Patrick and Francois. I see the child I did not have, longing for his absent mother. He is a son, and I am elsewhere. The pain of imagining this feels as if I really did it.
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