I felt a vague twinge of remorse: has a reader the right to criticize certain details under the pretext that she considers them superfluous?
Beginning my review by borrowing a line from the novel and infusing it with my words means two things: one, the novel did not leave me without anything and two, the novel did not stay with me enough.
Honeymoon; the title alone was a powerful catalyst to tilt the scales in its favour, overpowering its more compelling cousins namely Missing Person and The Search Warrant to emerge as my first choice to explore the Modiano world. But like many honeymoons of recent times, the euphoria around the event was far more jubilant than the event itself.
I met a forty-something Jean, a documentary film-maker on the streets of Paris where he was determined to conjure a breathing parallel life with a couple he had met twenty years ago; within the warm pages of a ‘Memoir’, of course. Amid changing hotels and treading streets that he suspected would have borne Ingrid’s and Rigaud’s footprints two decades back, dodging known faces and sinking into unknown ones, striking random conversations and hiring dilapidated, isolated villas, his search for a version of redemption that one seeks after breaching the finishing line in the worldly race with a frantic pace, was a tantalizingly delicious premise to shift the gear to one and then, two. However, that’s exactly where the gear got stuck for the rest of the journey. And this happened when we had hardly ever gone a few furlongs. Hard as I tried, I could not walk alongside Jean for long before looking to recede into a café to gorge on macaroons and Mistry. I re-emerged at another junction, half-hoping Jean would pull a surprise by talking less of Ingrid and Rigaud and more about himself, occasionally pushing an anecdote to act as an antidote to my boredom. But alas! film-makers are crafty people; what they craft, sometimes, they alone understand. So I went back home and rejoined him the next morning, assured that the sun might have enervated his cells and the lubricant might get him to pace up to the desired destination. But much as I love the journey, this gentleman loved to stand still. And still, at a junction that had nothing to cheer me up, unless his idea of supine street lamps, lethargic petrol pumps boys, damp hotel rooms, gloomy rains, confused agents and insipid memory flights had a cryptic aurum streak under their lacklustre veneers that my myopic eyes could not see.
Have you ever sat next to a person in a car which he/she abruptly brings to a halt at the behest of a breathtaking rainbow that despite your best glasses and intent, eludes your vision? Or that wonderful song that he/she plays with the most enthusiastic nod that can resurrect the dead which you can only, at best, attribute to a lullaby for the toddlers?
My apologies, Mr. Modiano. I assume much has been lost in the translation.
[Image courtesy http://www.johncavacas.com]