Despite being a famous author in France, with 30 books, many people - readers, literature critiques and himself included - were surprised that he won the prize. Many Swedish readers were unacquainted with his authorship - which no doubt is the big publishers fault, not having translated his books lately, probably because they consider their commercial value too low. Only a smaller publisher has shown interest in his work and translated it. It's almost as if his books resembled the shadows they contain. Fortunately, Modiano's books now has the attention they deserve.
Modiano was born in 1945, in Paris. His parents had met during the occupation and his early life involved some dark experiences that made the foundation of his body of work. He has an interest in uncovering mysteries from the past and in "Missing person", "De dunkla butikernas gata", the main character, who has lost his memory, is searching for his identity. Clues lead back to the occupation in Paris. The core of the novel is identity and the meaning of the past. Without memories we don't know ourselves. We are only strangers, shadows without directions. The dark streets in the novel perfectly catches the main character's melancholy.
Time is an essential theme. It's a floating concept, and sometimes it's difficult to decide when something occurs. The impressions of the present and past is melting together and the character's understanding of his past alters from different people's stories. Sometimes they are not even his own memories. The prose is humble but effective. Modiano is clever at portraying the deceitful memory lane, with its delusive cul-de-sacs, and how easy the subjective mind can be influenced.
Authors that have received the Nobelprize are often perceived as heavy, even by people that haven't read their books, but Modiano's work is very accessible to the reader. The books are short and the prose is rather humble, though it has many levels. "Missing person" is exciting as well as accessible and should appeal to a broad group of readers.