An NYRB Classics Original.
Young Once is a crucial book in the career of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. It was his breakthrough novel, in which he stripped away the difficulties of his earlier work and found a clear, mysteriously moving voice for his haunting stories of love, nostalgia, and grief. It has also been called “the most gripping Modiano book of all” (Der Spiegel).
Odile and Louis are leading a happy, bucolic life with their two children in the French countryside near the Swiss mountains. It is Odile’s thirty-fifth birthday, and Louis’s thirty-fifth birthday is a few weeks away. Then the story shifts back to their early years: Louis, just freed from his military service and at loose ends, is taken up by a shady character who brings him to Paris to do some work for a friend who manages a garage; Odile, an aspiring singer, is at the mercy of the kindness and unkindness of strangers. In a Paris that is steeped in crime and full of secrets, they find each other and struggle together to create what, looking back, will have been their youth.
Modiano is a pure original. He has transformed the novel into a laboratory for producing atmospheres, not situations—where everything must be inferred and nothing can be proved.
—Adam Thirlwell, The Guardian
Like W.G. Sebald, another European writer haunted by memory and by the history that took place just before he was born, Modiano combines a detective’s curiosity with an elegist’s melancholy.
—Adam Kirsch, The New Republic