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In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick…
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In the Café of Lost Youth (2007)

by Patrick Modiano

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Louki was her name at the café Condé. But she was Jacqueline originally. Unless she only ever became who she was when she was named again, when her life became a fixed point for other lives passing by. She was a creature of the neutral zones, those grey areas of Paris in the 1950s where everyone is travelling on an alternate passport. And neither her boyfriend, sometimes called Roland, nor her husband, nor the less the savoury people from her past appear to know the first thing about her. But was there ever anything to know?

Told obliquely by different characters, including Louki herself, this highly evocative tale captures a certain wistful bohemian existence which may not be accessible to us now. This is Modiano at his best, just beyond the edge of narrative. The kind of writing that, if the “events” of the story were lined up in linear order, the entire sense would be lost. I was transfixed.

Definitely recommended. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Jul 31, 2017 |
“Patrick Modiano goes beyond the checklist accuracies of historical fiction, fashioning a lush fever dream filled with glamor, mystery, and despair.

Check out my review at the New York Journal of Books:

http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/caf%C3%A9-lost-youth ( )
1 vote kswolff | Aug 4, 2016 |
Yes, it's brilliant and true, but it's full of sadness, too. Ennui on every page.

Louki is the poor daughter of a single mother and she has lost out on the only real opportunity in her life. She drifts through her life in 1950's Paris, meeting people, but never really knowing them, while they never really know her.

It's a story seeped in Paris alienation and loss. Such a good story. Such a sad story. ( )
  debnance | Aug 4, 2016 |
I realize how ridiculous it is for an amateur to disagree with the Nobel Prize committee, but this is the second Modiano novel I try and I just don't get why they selected him. His work reads like Alain Robbe-Grillet with all the difficulties sanded down, or perhaps Paul Auster's New York Trilogy minus the annoying po-mo winks and nudges. Either way, pleasant but far from life-changing. ( )
  giovannigf | Jun 27, 2016 |
Maybe knowing a bit of Paris would have made this story easier to follow, as it has plenty of references to the geography of the city.

The changes of point of view were remarkable and helped to move the story along but it is a thin story, more insinuating than really telling and the overall result didn't impress me very much. ( )
  ivan.frade | Sep 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
At the halfway point of the journey making up real life, we were surrounded by a gloomy melancholy, one expressed by so very many derisive and sorrowful words in the café of the lost youth.

-Guy Debord
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There were two entrances to the café, but she always opted for the narrower one hidden in the shadows.
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Book description
«Παρίσι, δεκαετία του 60· μια νεαρή γυναίκα εξαφανίζεται. Το μόνο που γνωρίζουμε γι αυτήν είναι το ψευδώνυμό της: Λουκί. Συχνάζει μαζί με άλλους μποέμ τύπους στο "cafe της χαμένης νιότης".
Μα ποια ήταν; Ο Πατρίκ Μοντιανό δίνει τον λόγο σε όλους όσοι τη γνώριζαν, μα ελάχιστα την ήξεραν πραγματικά: έναν ιδιωτικό ντεντέκτιβ, έναν φοιτητή, έναν εκκολαπτόμενο μυθιστοριογράφο, αλλά και τον σύζυγο της Λουκί. Παράλληλα την ακούμε να περιγράφει τη ζωής της, μια ζωή χωρίς ορίζοντα, σ ένα Παρίσι φωτογραφημένο σε άσπρο-μαύρο.
Ο Μοντιανό είναι μια από τις πιο ωραίες φωνές της γαλλικής λογοτεχνίας, αλλά και μια μουσική που συνοδεύεται από απλές λέξεις και σιωπές. Δεν ξέρουμε με πια μαγεία ο συγγραφέας επιτυγχάνει τη δημιουργία αυτής της ατμόσφαιρας, γεμάτης μυστήριο και μελαγχολία. Κατορθώνει να ρίξει φως σε ανώνυμα πρόσωπα και να τα καταστήσει ιδιαιτέρως σαγηνευτικά».
Mohammed Aissaoui, Le Figaro Litteraire
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"Who was Louki? Did anyone really know? She made her mark on all of us in different ways. We all remember her, some of us more than others, but did any of us truly know her? Can anyone honestly say they know another person? In the Cafe of Lost Youth is vintage Patrick Modiano, an absorbing evocation of a particular Paris of the 1950s, shadowy and shady, a secret world of writers, criminals, drinkers, and drifters. The novel, which includes vignettes of a number of historical figures and is inspired in part by the circle (depicted in the photographs of Ed van der Elsken) of the notorious and charismatic Guy Debord, centers on the enigmatic, waiflike figure of Louki, who catches everyone's attention even as she eludes possession or comprehension. Through the eyes of four very different narrators, we contemplate Louki's character and her fate, while Modiano explores the themes of identity, memory, time, and forgetting that are at the heart of his hypnotic and deeply moving art"--… (more)

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