Patrick Modiano in Stockholm during the Swedish Academy’s press conference on 6 December 2014.
|Born||Jean Patrick Modiano
30 July 1945
|Ethnicity||Sephardic Jewish and Flemish|
Grand Prix du roman de l’AcadÃ©mie franÃ§aise (1972)
Prix Goncourt (1978)
Prix mondial Cino Del Duca (2010)
Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2012)
Nobel Prize in Literature (2014)
I write in the most classical French because this form is necessary for my novels: to translate the murky, floating, unsettling atmosphere I wanted them to have, I had to discipline it into the clearest, most traditional language possible.
A novelist can never be his own reader, except when he is ridding his manuscript of syntax errors, repetitions, or the occasional superfluous paragraph.
Encourage aspiring writers to continue writing when things are going against them, when it feels hard. Explain the typical obstacles that occur, and encourage and reassure them to continue, never to give up.
I often have the impression that the book I've just finished isn't satisfied: that it rejects me because I haven't successfully completed it. Because there is no going back, I'm forced to begin a new book so I can finally complete the previous one.
The more things remain obscure and mysterious, the more they interest me. I even try to find mystery in things that have none.
I think I became a writer because I didn't know of anything else to do. Maybe some incident from my childhood influenced me.
I've always had the wish, the nostalgia to be able to write detective novels. At heart, the principal themes of detective novels are close to the things that obsess me: disappearance, the problems of identity, amnesia, the return to an enigmatic past.
When I was younger, I just put off the writing until later in the day, but now I write early every morning to get it done. I can only write for a few hours at a time; after that, my attention fades.
Something happens between a novel and its reader which is similar to the process of developing photographs, the way they did it before the digital age. The photograph, as it was printed in the darkroom, became visible bit by bit. As you read your way through a novel, the same chemical process takes place.
For a long time, I've had a recurring dream – I dream I don't have to write any more, that I'm free. I'm not free, alas; I'm still clearing the same terrain, with the impression that it's never finished.
At the beginning, I experienced writing as a sort of constraint. Starting so young as a writer is pitiable: it's beyond your powers; you have to lay bare things that are very heavy, and you don't have the means for that.
Recently, I looked back at my first manuscripts and was struck by the lack of space, of breath. That's exactly how it felt, back then… like I was suffocating.
Because I find writing painful, I try to get it over with as fast as possible. But I write every day, or I lose the thread.
Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge but to keep going.
Really, I prefer not to read my early books. Not that I don't like them, but I don't recognize myself anymore, like an old actor watching himself as a young leading man.
A novelist's lack of awareness of and critical distance to his own body of work is due to a phenomenon that I have noticed in myself and many others: as soon as it is written, every new book erases the last one, leaving me with the impression that I have forgotten it.
That's the miracle of fiction. I use it to spray on certain moments or places from my youth.
I quickly realised that it is difficult to get started when writing a novel. You have this dream of what you want to create, but it is like walking around a swimming pool and hesitating to jump in because the water is too cold.
In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born.