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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

So You Don't Get
Lost in the Neighborhood

Patrick Modiano

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood

Title: So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood
Author: Patrick Modiano
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 155 pages
Original in: French
Availability: So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood - US
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood - UK
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood - Canada
Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier - Canada
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighbourhood - India
Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier - France
Damit du dich im Viertel nicht verirrst - Deutschland
Perché tu non ti perda nel quartiere - Italia
Para que no te pierdas en el barrio - España
  • French title: Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier
  • Translated by Euan Cameron

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Our Assessment:

B+ : atmospheric; typical

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 30/9/2015 Melissa Maerz
Financial Times . 21/8/2015 Tobias Grey
FAZ . 30/7/2015 Jürg Altwegg
The Independent . 10/9/2015 Boyd Tonkin
The LA Times . 18/9/2015 David L. Ulin
NZZ . 30/7/2015 B. Villiger Heilig
The NY Times Book Rev. . 13/12/2015 Kaiama L. Glover
Die Zeit . 20/8/2015 Ulrich Greiner

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he novel is a suspenseful inquiry into memory and storytelling, including the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives. Itís the best kind of mystery, the kind that never stops haunting you." - Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

  • "There is still plenty of moral unpleasantness at play but the focus has narrowed and the intrigue has grown less haphazard." - Tobias Grey, Financial Times

  • "Man sollte diesen Roman nicht zum Triumph der Literatur über das Internet hochstilisieren. Er kommt zu einem durchaus plausiblen Schluss, der hier nicht verraten werden soll. (...) Ein bisschen frustriert bleibt man am Schluss dennoch zurück. Zu viele Figuren und Motive sind auf der Strecke geblieben." - Jürg Altwegg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Euan Cameron's atmospheric translation does ample justice to this spectral tale." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "The overlap, the back-and-forth, may seem repetitious, but it isn't. Rather, it makes reading any single Modiano book like encountering one installment in an ongoing, multivolume work. This press of memory becomes more resonant the more one reads." - David L. Ulin, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Ein irrer Roman. (...) Jean Daragane, der gelegentlich einem Opuskulum mit dem Titel «L'Oubli» nachgrübelt, hat den Kummer zumindest gehortet und geortet -- und Patrick Modiano dadurch Gelegenheit zu einem schwindelerregenden Stück Literatur verschafft." - Barbara Villiger Heilig, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Rife with explicit allusions to the "real life" of Patrick Modiano as told in his memoir a decade prior, the narrative chronicles the efforts of an isolated and aging novelist to confront an elusive past." - Kaiama L. Glover, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Man läse das nicht so gebannt, wäre Modianos Prosa nicht auf leuchtende Weise asketisch. (...) Es ist, als läsen wir den Bericht eines Forschungsreisenden, der allein seinem Blick für das Wesentliche vertraut -- und seiner Gabe, es beschreiben zu können." - Ulrich Greiner, 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:

       So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood features Jean Daragane, nudged towards a reëxamination of pieces of his long-past by a chance series of circumstances. As is typical in a Modiano-novel:

Here, everything had happened gently, a lost address book, voices on the telephone, a meeting in a café ... Yes it had all the lightness of a dream.
       The address book Daragane lost contained a name that he had also used in his first novel, Guy Torstel; the slightly threatening and/or desperate person who found the address book recognized the name and made connections that Daragane had long forgotten (or put out of his mind) and is looking for more information.
       Daragane's (and, often, Modiano's) attitude towards the past is summed up by a cardboard suitcase he has, the contents of which he isn't even entirely sure of:
He had not opened the suitcase for ten years. He could not part with it, but he was nevertheless relieved to have lost the key.
       The possible keys to parts of his past are forced into the lock by the events surrounding the loss and then return of his address book. The isolated author, who barely is in contact with anyone in any case, hardly seems in need of an address book (and can easily do without it when he loses it); the name and entry in question is also an old one -- the still-seven-digit-phone number: "must date back at least thirty years ..." -- and, as it turns out belong to someone Daragane knew only fleetingly and its inclusion seems not to have been made with any intention of ever coming into closer contact with the man.
       But every record has meaning, every act of recording significance. So also Daragane's first book, for example:
     He had written this book only in the hope that she might get in touch with him. Writing a book, for him, was also a way of beaming a searchlight or sending out coded signals to certain people with whom he had lost touch. It was enough to scatter their names at random through the pages and wait until they finally produced news of themselves.
       In the case of Torstel's name, popping up once in the debut Daragane hardly remembers as well as the much more personal document that is the address book, the signal is seen, and responded to, by someone entirely different, who nudges Daragane back onto a path into this murky past.
       Modiano's books often feature protagonists looking far, far back, as events can only be pieced together years and decades after they happened; here, too, for example: "Daragne would have to wait for over forty years to learn another detail of this affair". And, like many of Modiano's protagonists, Daragane is leery of coming too close to the past: he returns to a place from his childhood, for example, yet avoids too direct contact (visiting the actual house he roamed) or revealing his identity to the man he asks about those times (and who suggests that the boy from those days -- Daragane himself -- would be the best source for further information).
       The past, and many who were -- or should have been -- close to him remain shrouded:
We discover, often too late to talk to them about it, an episode from their life that a loved one has concealed from you. Has he really hidden it from you ? He has forgotten, or more likely, over time, he no longer thinks about it. Or, quite simply, he can't find the words.
       So also the feel to this and many of Modiano's novels, full of a cautious flailing for memory and for words.
       The novel opens:
     Almost nothing. Like an insect bite that initially strikes you as very slight.
       Some twenty pages later he expands on this:
These words had travelled a long way. An insect bite, very slight to begin with, and it causes you an increasingly sharp pain, and very soob a feeling of being torn apart. The present and past merge together, and that seems quite natural because they were only separated by a cellophane partition. An insect bite was all it too to pierce the cellophane.
       So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood -- the title yet another documetary scrap from the past -- is like that insect bite, too, as Modiano pulls the reader into this merged world and Daragane's struggles with present and past, seeming almost negligible in the beginning and then flaring into something much darker and deeper.
       Daragane tries to hold many of his memories and feelings at bay -- unable to keep them completely from grabbing some hold of him (and, presumably, threatening to pull him under) but warily, carefully trying to manage and deal with them: it's slow going for him, some of the time ("he realised it had taken him fifteen years to cross the street"). It makes for a sometimes difficult journey for the reader, led along through this fog of hazy and carefully addressed memory, and there's a cryptic feel to it all, but the overall effect is powerful.
       So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood is probably not an ideal starting-point into the Modiano-œuvre, but it is certainly a station to eventually get to.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 November 2015

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So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood: 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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