AUDIO: Chris Clarke in Conversation with Scott Esposito on Patrick Modiano


Last week we were very pleased to host French translator Chris Clarke before a capacity audience for our Two Voices Salon on French Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano. Chris was in conversation with Two Lines Press’s Scott Esposito on his translation of Modiano’s 2007 novel In the Café of Lost Youth, recently published by NYRB Classics. This wide-ranging conversation included translation challenges Chris faced, Modiano’s roots and influences, the appearance of Guy Debord in this novel, Modiano’s particular use of French grammar, his reputation in France, and much more.

To listen, use the audio player at the bottom of this post. A full table of contents is below.


0:00 Introductions

1:40 Strange 19th-century, madmen French texts that Chris has been reading recently

2:41 How Chris discovered Modiano and came to translate him, including his weird, Modiano-esque dream

10:00 Modiano’s reputation in France before the Nobel Prize

13:10 As Modiano’s first book ever with multiple narrators, how it functions differently from his other books and what challenges it presents to a translator

18:45 What is the texture of Modiano’s particular method of thinking about the past (including Modiano’s own past and family history)?

22:35 Modiano as a writer of postwar France and why he portrays a time of economic success in such a futile, shady way, and how his portrayal of the past has changed over his career

27:11 Modiano’s use of Guy Debord in In the Café of Last Youth, and his relationship to the Situationists

31:45: Futility and eternal return in the work of Modiano, and how he reflects this in his grammar

36:30 The “intentionally vague” sense of place in Modiano’s work, particularly in how he creates Paris

40:00 Modiano on Paris

41:55 Chris’s experiences with NYRB Classics Edwin Frank and the team at NYRB Classics

48:30 Chris’s impressions of the other Modiano translators, and how to craft Modiano’s English voice, his tone and rhythms

53:45 The response to Modiano in New York

55:45 Audicne Q & A

Comments are closed.