Patrick Modiano translated from the French by John Cullen

Villa Triste

Publication Date: May 31, 2016

176 pp


List Price US $12.99
ISBN: 9781590517680

Trade Paperback

List Price US $13.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25

This novel by Nobel Prize–winning author Patrick Modiano is one of the most seductive and accessible in his oeuvre: the story of a man’s memories of fleeing responsibility, finding love, and searching for meaning in an uncertain world

The narrator of Villa Triste, an anxious, roving, stateless young man of eighteen, arrives in a small French lakeside town near Switzerland in the early 1960s. He is fleeing the atmosphere of menace he feels around him and the fear that grips him. Fear of war? Of imminent catastrophe? Of others? Whatever it may be, the proximity of Switzerland, to which he plans to run at the first sign of danger, gives him temporary reassurance.

The young man hides among the other summer visitors until he meets a beautiful young actress named Yvonne Jacquet, and a strange doctor, René Meinthe. These two invite him into their world of soirees and late-night debauchery. But when real life beckons once again, he finds no sympathy from his new companions.

Modiano has written a haunting novel that captures lost youth, the search for identity, and ultimately, the fleetingness of time.

Excerpt from Villa Triste

She was sitting in the lobby of the Hermitage, settled on one of the big sofas in the back and not taking her eyes off the revolving door, as if she was waiting for someone. My armchair was only two or three meters away, and I could see her profile.

Auburn hair. Green shantung dress. And the stiletto-heeled shoes women wore. White.

A dog lay at her feet. From time to time, he yawned and stretched. He was a huge, lethargic Great Dane. He had a white coat with black patches. Green, red, white, black. The combination of colors affected me with a kind of numbness. How did I wind up next to her on the sofa? Did the Great Dane perhaps serve as a go-between, lumbering up to me lazily so he could sniff me?

I noticed that she had green eyes and very light freckles, and that she was a little older than me.

That same morning, we walked in the hotel gardens. The dog led the way. We followed him along a path that ran under a canopy of Clematis with big blue and purple flowers. I pushed aside hanging clusters of Laburnum; we skirted lawns and privet hedges. There were, if I recall correctly, some rock plants of various frosty hues, some pink hawthorn blossoms, a flight of steps bordered with empty basins. And the immense bed of yellow, red, and white dahlias. We leaned on the balustrade and looked at the lake below us.

I’ve never been given to know exactly what she thought of me in the course of that first encounter. Maybe she took me for a bored rich boy, some millionaire’s son. In any case, what amused her was the monocle I wore on my right eye to read, not out of foppishness or affectation, but because my vision was very much worse in that eye than in the other.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014 was awarded to Patrick Modiano “For the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” —2014 Nobel Committee for Literature

Praise for Out of the Dark:

“The unlived lives, the dreams of escape, the use of drugs, the constant appearance and disappearance of people without explanation, the spare symbolic imagery all staples of Modiano’s work are replayed here to admirable effect, while the author’s lucid prose carries the reader into his hermetic world.” —Publishers Weekly 

“Stylistically, Modiano is certainly French; in an e-mail, Josyane Savigneau of Le Monde called his writing “delicate, subtle, restrained,” and praised the man himself as discreet and generous, detached from his literary celebrity. “He doesn’t create symphonies or operas,” she wrote, “but he’s an excellent pianist.” –The New Yorker