All but two of the stories gives a glimpse into the life of one or other of these school friends, five, ten, or twenty years on. The other exception is Chapter IV, narrated by an unnamed older alumnus of Valvert, telling of his time (during the Occupation, I believe) as tutor to a small girl called Little Jewel, who is forced into films by her mother, a mysterious "Countess" who appears to lead a busy social life of her own. As fellow-Nobelist JMG Le Clézio points out in his introduction, much of the story is unusually tender for Modiano, despite the coldness of the mother. The author would take up the girls story again in his 2001 novel Little Jewel, now showing her as a young adult cast adrift. Characters like Jewels mother, socialites of uncertain origins who are none too scrupulous about how they make their money, are found elsewhere in Modianos work, and there are at least two other examples here. Chapter VII has an even more disturbing example of a beautiful young woman, a childhood playmate of the narrators and sister of one of his school friends, who looks as though she might be destined to fall into the same pattern. But for the most part, the stories concern the fates of individual young men whom the narrator know at school. It is about a young man called Philippe Yotlande who is already a known face on the Champs Elysées by the time he is expelled from school at 18, a reputation that is clinched a year later when he appears in the paper with the real Danish film star Annette Stroyberg. (view spoiler)A few tables away, a girl of about twenty was sitting with a gray-haired man, who held his head high and looked like a gentleman rider, with an official decoration on his lapel.
Patrick Modiano is a French language novelist and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. Modiano's childhood took place in a unique atmosphere: between the absence of his father -- of which he heard many troubled stories -- and his mother's frequent tours, he had to complete his secondary education by government aid. While he was at Henri-IV, he took geometry lessons from writer Raymond Queneau, who was a friend of Modiano's mother. Modiano has mentioned on Oct 9, 2014, during an interview with La Grande Librairie, that one of the books which had a great impact on his writing life was 'Le cur est un chasseur solitaire' (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), the first novel published by Carson McCullers in 1940.