Sus­pend­ed Sen­tences: Three Novellas

Patrick Modi­ano; Mark Poliz­zot­ti, trans.

  • From the Publisher
March 5, 2015

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.


Read Beth Kissilef­f’s inter­view with Mark Poliz­zot­ti, the trans­la­tor of Sus­pend­ed Sen­tences, here.

Discussion Questions