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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Patrick Modiano

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To purchase Suspended Sentences

Title: Afterimage
Author: Patrick Modiano
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 59 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in Suspended Sentences - US
in Suspended Sentences - UK
in Suspended Sentences - Canada
Chien de printemps - Canada
in Suspended Sentences - India
Chien de printemps - France
Ein so junger Hund - Deutschland
in Perro de primavera - España
  • French title: Chien de printemps
  • Published in English as: Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas together with Suspended Sentences and Flowers of Ruin
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Mark Polizzotti

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Our Assessment:

A- : beautiful little piece

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 29/11/2014 .
FAZ . 17/2/2001 Sabine Doering
The Guardian . 19/11/2014 Adam Thirlwell
The Independent . 7/11/2014 Jonathan Gibbs
The LA Times . 21/11/2014 David L. Ulin
The NY Times . 13/1/2015 Dwight Garner
The NY Times Book Rev. . 26/12/2014 Alan Riding
El País . 20/10/2012 José Luis de Juan
Publishers Weekly . 20/10/2014 .
San Francisco Chronicle . 10/12/2014 Scott Esposito
The Spectator . 6/12/2014 Ruth Scurr
TLS . 5/12/2014 Henri Astier
Wall St. Journal . 7/11/2014 Sam Sacks
The Washington Post . 3/12/2014 Michael Dirda
Die Zeit . 12/2/2004 Susanne Meyer

  From the Reviews:
  • "Mr Modiano’s pared-down prose seems to have less in common with Proust’s sinuous sentences than with the American Noir novels that inspired his early work." - The Economist

  • "Die Flüchtigkeit und Zufälligkeit menschlicher Begegnungen sind seit langem ein zentrales Thema für Patrick Modiano. In diesem Roman hat er zu einer fragilen Darstellung gefunden, die kleine Momentaufnahmen wie in einem Fotoalbum aneinanderreiht und auf die ordnende Hand eines souverän über den Dingen stehenden Chronisten verzichtet. Diese Zurückhaltung zeugt von Übung und Erfahrung." - Sabine Doering, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "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

  • "(P)eople and places once lost are made to live again, though faintly and flickering, as in an old print of a film noir (.....) Modiano is as accessible as he is engrossing." - Jonathan Gibbs, The Independent

  • "For Modiano, memory, experience are fluid, fleeting, and even the stories we tell ourselves are subject to change. Our lives flicker past us like the afterimage of a photo; eventually, our attempts at constancy must fall away." - David L. Ulin, The Los Angeles Times

  • "(T)hese novellas have a mood. They cast a spell, one that I was mostly happy to submit to. They are wittier than you might imagine. " - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

  • "Desamparo, dolor, silencio: he aquí el fascinante mundo novelístico de Patrick Modiano." - José Luis de Juan, El País

  • "(T)he tautest, most affecting work, is a shadowy tale in which a young writer obsessively catalogs the work of a haunted photographer who "did everything he could to be forgotten."" - Publishers Weekly

  • "The most focused of the book’s three diffuse novellas is Afterimage. (...) Afterimage memorably evokes the solidarity they form around this shared vulnerability." - Scott Esposito, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Modiano’s Paris is beautiful, baleful, disappearing. Particular places recur with unshakeable atmospheres." - Ruth Scurr, The Spectator

  • "Inspired by Jansen, the young writer of Afterimage undertakes to capture absence. This challenge lies at the core of Modiano’s art. The subtlety and deceptive simplicity of his prose are difficult to translate." - Henri Astier, Times Literary Supplement

  • "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

  • "Above all, through these strobe-lit memories Modiano gradually evokes the melancholy of things lost and gone forever." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

  • "Eine kostbare, traurige Erzählung." - Susanne Meyer, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Afterimage is a short novella -- originally published as a stand-alone in French (and German translation), but collected with two earlier novellas in Suspended Sentences in English translation. The first-person narrator -- the same age as Modiano, and also a writer -- looks back nearly three decades, to 1964, when he was nineteen and he spent some time with a photographer who had been a friend of Robert Capa, Francis Jansen.
       Jansen is already an elusive presence in the short time the young narrator knows him. His suitcases are packed -- with twenty-five-years' worth of photographs --, and he's ready to abandon Paris. Even as he then lets the narrator spend time at his studio, he is already absent for much of the time, and when he's in the studio he is unwilling to answer the door or the telephone.
       The narrator describes Jansen's philosophy, which he now seems to be adopting for his private life even more effectively than he had for his professional one:

     He thought a photographer was nothing, that he should blend into the surroundings and become invisible
       The narrator volunteers to catalog Jansen's photographs before he leaves:
I had taken on this job because I refused to accept that people and things could disappear without a trace. How could anyone resign himself to that ?
       He even writes the catalog in duplicate, one copy for Jansen and one to keep for himself. A record of the work that then outlives most of the work itself, lost along with Jansen, as the photographer does simply disappear, practically no trace left behind, and none to be later found.
       This novella is the narrator's attempt to recreate what he remembers of the man and the time -- a faint afterimage (as the quite appropriate English title has it), decades later. He finds:
     The more I remember these details, the more I adopt Jansen's point of view. In the few weeks when I knew him, he considered people and things from a great distance, and all that remained for him were vague reference points and hazy silhouettes.
       With attention to detail typical of Modiano -- names, dates, places -- the contrast to his own 'hazy silhouettes' is striking, and beautifully done.
       Short, deceptively simple and understated, Afterimage is a beautiful little piece of work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 November 2014

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Afterimage: Reviews: Patrick Modiano: Other books by Patrick Modiano under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Patrick Modiano was born in 1945. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014.

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© 2014-2021 the complete review

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