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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Ring Roads

Patrick Modiano

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To purchase The Occupation Trilogy

Title: Ring Roads
Author: Patrick Modiano
Genre: Novel
Written: 1972 (Eng. 1974, rev. 2015)
Length: 106 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in The Occupation Trilogy - US
in The Occupation Trilogy - UK
in The Occupation Trilogy - Canada
Les boulevards de ceinture - Canada
in The Occupation Trilogy - India
Les boulevards de ceinture - France
in Pariser Trilogie - Deutschland
I viali di circonvallazione - Italia
in Trilogía de la Ocupación - España
  • French title: Les boulevards de ceinture
  • Translated by Caroline Hillier (1974), revised by Frank Wynne (2015)

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Our Assessment:

B : effective depiction of creepy milieu and characters

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 . 2/8/2015 David Mills
The Telegraph . 18/7/2015 Duncan White
The Times . 1/8/2015 Robert Tombs

  From the Reviews:
  • "(H)ere the paternal pretenders of John le Carré, with their toxic legacy of masks and lies, may come to mind." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "Ring Roadsreprises this climate of apathy and disillusionment, parodying and further condemning the shameless opportunists who thrive in the shameful world of Vichy Paris." - Kaiama L. Glover, The New York Times Book Review

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:

       Patrick Modiano had a notoriously complicated relationship with his parents, a frequent subject in his books, and Ring Roads is a novel of a son trying to understand who his father is.
       "I met him for the first time when I was seventeen", the narrator recounts. He describes some of the dubious money-making schemes he was pulled into, and, typically, the Modiano-stand-in narrator finds his talent in the literary field -- albeit in the briefest jottings: faked dedications from famous authors to one another in their books, to enhance the value of these. This initial father-son time together is limited -- a phase, of a few limited episodes -- with most of Ring Roads describing events ten years later, when their paths cross again.
       After a decade of not having seen his father, the narrator introduces himself into his father's dubious circle as a young novelist. The father is such a distant figure that he apparently doesn't even recognize his son -- yet (or rather: in other words) he's exactly the man he always used to be: "You haven't changed much", the narrator observes (to himself -- he doesn't confront his father directly), and later: "Nothing has changed. Ten years later, here you are the same as always".
       The narrator is invited to write for the magazine they put out -- C'est la vie --, invited with the telling words: " So you're willing to get your hands dirty ?" They're a dubious lot, the undertaking questionable.
       The narrator briefly sketches the various figures -- noting about unscrupulous editor Murraille, for example:

'Troubled times' had made it possible for him to realise his dream. He had exploited the chaos and the murk. He felt perfectly at home in this world which seemed hell bent on destruction.
       He explains why he writes more closely about these figures from his father's circle:
I take no pleasure in setting down their life stories. Nor am I doing it for the sake of the story, having no imagination. I focus on these misfits, these outsiders, so that, through them, I can catch the fleeting image of my father. About him, I know almost nothing. But I will think something up.
       Many of the episodes -- and certainly the general feel of the ugly, morally compromised milieu the father-figure is steeped in -- are familiar from Modiano's Pedigree; many of Modiano's books can feel like companion-volumes to one another, but Ring Roads is a particularly close variation on Pedigree, and it's fascinating to see the overlap, even as the works are separated by many decades.
       Another crucial piece in the Modiano-œuvre -- though probably better read as part of it than as a stand-alone.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 September 2015

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Ring Roads: 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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