After the Circus A Novel Patrick Modiano, Mark Polizzotti

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
15 Jan 2016
Yale University Press
216 pages: 197 x 127 x 16mm

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A classic novel from recent Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano, now available to English-language readers in a superb new translation

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. In this evocative novel the internationally acclaimed author takes up one of his most compelling themes: a love affair with a woman who disappears, and a narrator grappling with the mystery of a relationship stopped short.
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.

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. He lives in Paris. Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French and is director of the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

“This brief, polished, ultimately poignant story is classic Modiano . . . superbly lean . . . moody, even noir . . . smart and strangely moving . . . Modiano at his best.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (starred review)

“Powerful”—Michael Autrey, Booklist

“[After the Circus] transposes Modiano’s favorite themes into a taut, hard-boiled crime story. . . . Modiano is writing metaphysical mystery stories, in which the search for answers is never afforded an easy solution. The more of Modiano’s work you read, the more familiar and inevitable his peculiar set of obsessions starts to feel—which is one sign of a major writer.”—Adam Kirsch, Daily Beast

“The sense of menace is masterfully managed by Modiano in this expertly-paced novel. . . . The love story, too, is beautifully done. . . . After the Circus is, ultimately, a bona fide—and first rate—thriller. Completely low-key and understated . . . yet so effectively creepy, perfectly devastating—and heartbreaking.”—M.A. Orthofer, Complete Review

“At its opaque centre, this is the story of two lovers pitting themselves against the world in the vein of Faulkner’s The Wild Palms or Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms … In keeping with the territory, Modiano’s syntax is closer to Hemingway than Faulkner. A simple sentence can hold a beautiful heaviness… the overall effect is like staring through the shutters of a gambling den and watching a seedy mystery unfold.”—Nick Major, The Glasgow Herald

“[After the Circus] is at once elliptical and concise, diffuse in possibility and economical in facts . . . we gather feeling, moments of being, in the Woolfian sense, intimations of life’s essential sadness, which is sometimes gentle and sometimes furious.”—Yevgeniya Traps, Forward

After the Circus is a little masterpiece in the French minimalist and ironic noir tradition, reminiscent of Godard’s Breathless or Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player.”—Colin Nettelbeck, Australian Book Review