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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Night Watch

Patrick Modiano

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To purchase The Occupation Trilogy

Title: The Night Watch
Author: Patrick Modiano
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969 (Eng. 1971, rev. 2015)
Length: 94 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in The Occupation Trilogy - US
in The Occupation Trilogy - UK
in The Occupation Trilogy - Canada
La ronde de nuit - Canada
in The Occupation Trilogy - India
La ronde de nuit - France
in Pariser Trilogie - Deutschland
in Trilogía de la Ocupación - España
  • French title: La ronde de nuit
  • Translated by Patricia Wolf (1971), translation revised by Frank Wynne (2015)
  • Previously published as Night Rounds (1971/2)

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Our Assessment:

B : effectively atmospheric

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 21/8/2015 Tobias Grey
The Independent . 30/7/2015 Boyd Tonkin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 13/12/2015 Kaiama L. Glover
Sunday Times . 12/3/1972 .
Sunday Times . 2/8/2015 David Mills
The Telegraph . 18/7/2015 Duncan White
The Times . 1/8/2015 Robert Tombs
TLS . 4/12/1969 John Sturrock

  From the Reviews:
  • "Bracing and brilliant, The Night Watch deepens the twilit mood of 1940s film noir or mid-period Graham Greene with an immersive intensity." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "The Night Watch and Ring Roads, published in 1969 and 1972, respectively, offer a relative stylistic calm after the storm of Modiano’s debut. (...) The very context of Occupied Paris forecloses the possibility of ethical absolutes." - Kaiama L. Glover, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Obscure but mesmerising allegory of modern everyman." - Sunday Times

  • "(A) surreal, cyclical nightmare" - Duncan White, The Telegraph

  • "M.Modiano's waspish metaphor for his own difficulties in responding to the immediate past, with its now unreal poles of ignominy and heroism. The two novels which this very young writer has published indicate him as one of the most gifted of French "pop" writers, whose diet is cleverly restricted to predigested foods." - John Sturrock, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       The Night Watch is a different sort of Paris-novel, a tale of the Occupied capital. It opens in summer -- but one where: "There was not a single car in Paris. Not a single person on the streets." It is: "a world on the brink of extinction", and while everyone is fleeing, the narrator remains apart:

Rivers of cars stream towards the gates of Paris, and I, I sit on a bench. I would like to join them in this flight, but I have nothing to save.
       He becomes an informer for the authorities -- he is to: "infiltrate a 'ring' and destroy it" -- abandoning any morality: "I'll even become a killer if they want". But it's certainly not out of any real belief in the cause -- in any cause.
       The way he sees himself has him admitting:
that my particular disposition was well-suited to double-dealing and -- why not ? -- to treason. Not enough moral fibre to be a hero. Too dispassionate and distracted to be a real villain. On the other hand, I was malleable, I had a fondness for action, and I was plainly good-natured.
       His life, his actions, are all ambivalence. There is little question of him choosing a side, for example -- he is: "A weathervane. A puppet." He identifies more with "much misunderstood" Judas Iscariot than Jesus He finds some success in the roles he's thrust into and assumes, but it doesn't lead to much clarity: he is:
A 'promising' young man. But what exactly was my promise ?
       But by the end, after he has crossed and double crossed, he is: "a young man without a future" -- and now he is the one finally fleeing Paris (making the most of it on his way out).
       The Night Watch is effectively atmospheric, with the feel of a black-and-white (and grey ...) wartime noir, its narrator a man of many (and no) identities, struggling to find himself in a place and time where there is so little moral clarity.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 September 2015

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The Night Watch: 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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© 2015-2021 the complete review

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