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The Mysteries of Modiano | Mark Polizzotti, John Donatich, Arezoo Moseni | Art and Literature Series Event


FREE - Auditorium doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Author, translator, and publisher Mark Polizzotti; and author and Yale University Press director John Donatich converse about publishing, translation, and the elusive, beguiling fictions of 2014 Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. The conversation is moderated by Arezoo Moseni.

Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature and an internationally beloved novelist, has been honored with an array of prizes, including the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca by the Institut de France for lifetime achievement and the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature. One of the hallmarks of French author Patrick Modiano’s writing is a singular ability to revisit particular motifs and episodes, infusing each telling with new detail and emotional nuance. He lives in Paris.

Set in mid-sixties Paris, After the Circus traces the relationship between the narrator, a young man not quite of legal age, and the slightly older, enigmatic woman he first glimpses at a police interrogation. The two lovers make their uncertain way into each other’s hearts, but the narrator soon finds himself in the unsettling, ominous presence of others. Who are these people? Are they real, or simply evoked? Part romance, part detective story, this mesmerizing book fully demonstrates Modiano’s signature use of atmosphere and suggestion as he investigates the perils and the exhilaration of young love.

Pedigree is a rare glimpse into the life of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. The author takes up his pen to tell his personal story, and addresses his early years—shadowy times in postwar Paris that haunt his memory and have inspired his world-cherished body of fiction. In the spare, absorbing, and sometimes dreamlike prose that translator Mark Polizzotti captures unerringly, Modiano offers a memoir of his first twenty-one years. Termed one of his “finest books” by the Guardian, Pedigree is both a personal exploration and a luminous portrait of a world gone by. Pedigree sheds light on the childhood and adolescence that Modiano explores in Suspended Sentences, Dora Bruder, and other novels. In this work he re-creates the louche, unstable, colorful world of his parents under the German Occupation; his childhood in a household of circus performers and gangsters; and his formative friendship with the writer Raymond Queneau. While acknowledging that memory is never assured, Modiano recalls with painful clarity the most haunting moments of his early life, such as the death of his ten-year-old brother. Pedigree, Modiano’s only memoir, is a gift to his readers and a master key to the themes that have inspired his writing life.

In the essential trilogy of novellas Suspended Sentences, Patrick Modiano reaches back in time, opening the corridors of memory and exploring the mysteries to be encountered there. Each novella in the volume represents a sterling example of the author’s originality and appeal, while Mark Polizzotti’s superb English language translations capture not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose. 

Although originally published separately, Modiano’s three novellas AfterimageSuspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.

Copies of After the Circus (Yale University Press, 2015), Pedigree (Yale University Press, 2015), Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas (Yale University Press, 2014) are available for purchase and signing at the end of event. 

Mark Polizzotti is the author of eight books, including Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995; revised ed., 2009), which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction and a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”; Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados (British Film Institute, 2006); and Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Bloomsbury, 2006). His essays and reviews have appeared in ARTnews, BookforumThe Nation, The New Republic, Parnassus, Partisan Review, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. The translator of over forty books from the French, including works by Gustave Flaubert, Patrick Modiano, Marguerite Duras, André Breton, Raymond Roussel, and Jean Echenoz. In 2015 he was a panelist in The Trends in Art Book Publishing event held in conjunction with College Art Association Conference. Mark Polizzotti currently directs the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

John Donatich is the Director of Yale University Press. He serves as founder and editor of the Margellos World Republic of Letters, a literature in translation series that publishes such authors as Adonis, Claudio Magris, Norman Manea and Witold Gombrowicz. He previously served as VP, Publisher of Basic Books and in various positions at HarperCollins and Putnam. He Earned a BA and MA from New York University. His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The Village Voice and many other periodicals. In 2005 he published a book titled Ambivalence, A Love Story. He is also the author of The Variations: a Novel. John Donatich is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow at the Whitney Center for the Humanities, and was recently awarded a fellowship by the Corporation of Yaddo. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Arezoo Moseni is an artist. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at major venues in the U.S. and abroad such as FIAC 2014, and it is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Bibliotheque nationale de France, and Musee de La Photographie. She is the recipient of several fellowships and grants including the Carnegie Corporation of New York | New York Times award, Kentler International Work on Site grant, Yaddo Fellowship and Artists Space Independent Project grant. She received a BFA at Utah State University, a MA and MFA at the University of New Mexico, and a MLIS at Pratt Institute. She curates exhibitions and events at The New York Public Library where she has initiated several ongoing exhibition and program series featuring the work of emerging and renowned artists, authors, critics, designers and others.

Conceived and organized by Arezoo Moseni, and in its sixth year, Art and Literature Series events bring forth pollinations across the literary and visual arts with readings and discussions by acclaimed artists, authors and poets.

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