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DonRocks

"Missing Person" <<Rue des Boutiques Obscures>> (1978) - Existential Mystery Novel by 2014 Nobel Prize-Winning French Author Patrick Modiano

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I try to read at least one novel by each Nobel Prize Winning Author, just for the hell of it - for my own self-improvement, I guess. 

Having always considered myself fluent (or at least highly conversational) in French, and having read some pretty tough little books in French before, I decided to tackle one of Patrick Modiano's works in his native language, so I had my mother-in-law find and ship me a really nice copy of <<La Place de LÉtoile>>, one of his most important works. I read the preface, and understood the double-entendre. Great! I was going to blitz through this 211-page book in a couple of months. Then I got to the second page, and was staring down things like this list of idiomatic invectives, one right after the other:

... rantanplan ... Vlan! ... cet effréné empaffeur de petites Aryennes! ... Rastaquouère des cocktails infâmes! 

and so on, and so on. It took me an hour - with a dictionary - to read one page, and I closed the book and said, "To hell with it - this isn't French; this is Martian." So I took the more sensible route - or so I *thought* - and bought a translated book (and there weren't many available): "Missing Person," translated by Daniel Weissbort. 

One mistake was followed by another, the second being so significant that it stole six months from my life. First of all, "Missing Person" is some editor's *impossibly bad* translation of the novel's real name: <<Rues des Boutiques Obscures>>which translates much more appropriately - and poetically - to "Streets of Obscure Boutiques." This book is, you see, a mystery novel in which the detective is also the subject - he can't remember who he is, so he spends the entire book chasing down leads as to his real identity, some of which are good, some of which aren't - hence, the beautiful title which was completely ruined in translation, the imagery of some poor man scurrying up-and-down streets with strange, but familiar, looking boutiques a near-perfect allegory of his search for himself.

I was hell-bent on giving Modiano the respect of trying to solve this mystery before I got to the end of the book - so much so, that I wrote down, and kept track of, every single name, proper noun, street, etc., in the *entire book*, so when they were referred to again later on, I could go back and find the page on which they were originally referred. That's dedication, right?

Yeah, that's dedication. Assuming the book has an ending. When I was 20 pages from the end, after spending about six months reading it, studiously assembling my study guide, an uneasy feeling came over me ... this book wasn't going anywhere. And then I cursed the author when I was 5 pages from the end, because I knew then that this was going to be one of "those" novels - this wasn't a mystery novel; it was a meditation on existence, and all that work I did was for *nothing*. Nada. Zilch. This was going to be a story without an ending. 

Then I read the final word, closed the book, and said to myself, "That bastard."

It was like having read "Waiting for Godot" (for those who don't know: Godot never shows up), diligently writing down every possible clue throughout the entire story, only to have zero payoff at the end, and to have realized you wasted about forty hours of work. If I had only known, I would have read it differently, but I had no way to know.

Well, I hope you all enjoy my Study Guide to NOTHING. I even went so far as to separate Rues, from Boulevards, from Avenues, and to think with about 50 pages left, I thought to myself, "You know, I'm going to have to read this a second time and write down all *phone numbers*, because what I'm doing isn't going to be enough. 

Listen up! Learn from my mistake in attempting to read this as a novel in which you can figure out clues. Had I done this properly, I would have included phone numbers, and also the page numbers for the dates at the very bottom. As it stands, *the entire project was a mistake*, and the novel is best blasted through without worrying about details. Read it in a week; not in six months. Trust me - my loss can be your gain. I will add that I just this moment purchased the hardcover version of this novel in French, and I'm going to "blast through it," <<sans dico>>, both to improve my French, and because I know I'll understand it very well, even though I won't know certain individual words - plus, I now have a brand new hardcover copy for my tiny, personal library, and also a paperback English-language copy to lend to my friends - one thing I am not, is a quitter.

Enjoy! I sure as hell didn't. There are no spoilers here, and the page numbers represent the very first time in the book that something was referenced.

This is an important note: The reason these lists look so "condensed" is because I often tapped them in on my cell phone, and was trying to keep one note per line. I had no intention of making these public, and they were for my own benefit - but it's obvious to me (now) that someone, at some point in time, might get some use out of them, so here they are in their "raw" format, with my apologies.

Don Rockwell's Study Guide to ... NOTHING!

Note: This ONLY applies to This Edition of "Missing Person"

The sleuth *and* the subject is named Guy Roland - the entire story is about him trying to find out his true identity.

Links that Guy Roland uses to get from one lead to the next:
Hutte
Sonachidze (how?) -> Heurteur
Styoppa (funeral of de Rosen)
Blunt (photo & funeral of Orlov)
Howard (Lutte's directories)
Pilgram (Howard's pic + Hutte)
Ruddy bartender (Denise born)
Mansoure (magazine cover)

People mentioned in the story (again, the page cited is the very first time a name or person was referenced in the book - if something "important" shows up later, I'll sometimes write something such as [see 119] which means "see also page 119"):
Guy Roland 1
Constantin von Hutte 1
"The dark little man, puffy face" 1
The dark little man's wife 1
Another dark little man 1
Paul Sonachidze 5
Jean Heurteur 7
Styoppa de Dzhagorev 10
Marie de Rosen 13
Georges Sacher 13
Giorgiadze 27
Mara "Gay" Orlov 27
Pedro the South American 27 [identified by Bob 64, lying on bed 115]
Bernardy Mac Mahon 32
Kyril Orlov 32
Irene Giorgiadze 32
Waldo Blunt 33
Jean-Pierre Bernardy 33 [see 159]
Lucky Luciano 38
Howard de Luz (Jean Simety) 40 (48)
John Gilbert 41
Dany Blunt 42
MmeMabel Donahue Simety 48
Claude Howard 49
Freddie [Alfred Jean 158] Howard de Luz 50
Robert "Bob," the Valbreuse caretaker 54 [named 58]
French billiard-playing woman 61
Freddy's jockey friend 64 [see 124]
Robert Brun 66 (same as Bob 54?)
R.L. de Oliveira Cezar, CG 67
Helene Pilgram 68
Policemen standing sentry 71
Mr [Pedro?80] McEvoy 72 [Dominican Republic working at legation 119]
Denise [Yvette Coudreuse] 73[79] ["Muth" 119]
Leon Van Allen 73 [Dutch 119]
Paul Coudreuse 79
Henriette Bogaerts 79
Jimmy Pedro Stern 79
Oleg de Wrede (Paris) 81 [see 137]
Ruddy bartender 86
Jean-Michel Mansoure 89
Hoyningen-Huene 95
Alec Scouffi (Greek-Egypt) 97
Blue Rider (Scouffi's killer) 99
Richard Wall 102
10-yr-old girl w/Denise 103
Fat, bald man in pic w/cig 104
Jacques [F 119] dressmaker Denise worked for on Rue la Boetie [#32 119] 107
Sir Basil Zaharoff 108
Pretty dark-haired tropical Latina 112
Man on beach with son 114
King Gustav of Sweden 117
De Swert 118
Mrs. Kahan 118
Georges Stern 120
Giuvia Sarano 120
Cueva 122
Colonel de Basil 122
Andre Wildmer 124
Porfirio Rubirosa 127 [killed in car under?accident 129]
Bob Besson 132
Mrs. Jeanschmidt 136
Mrs E. Khan 137
Louis de Wrede, Comte de Montpensier (called Oleg) 138
Duchess rof Uzes 138
Duke of Windsor 138
Mrs. Henri Duvernois 139
Fair-Haired Man at Gare de Lyon 143 [Kyril 146] (Not Gay's father)
George (Bar Owner in Megeve) 150
Joseph Simety Howard De Luz 158
Louise Fouquereaux 158
Alex Maguy 162
Japanese actor and his wife 162
Evelyne and a pale young man 162
Jean-Claude the Belgian 162
Fribourg 165
Fat Maori 165
Alain Gerbault 165

Rues (a <<Rue>> is a Street - I left the word "Rue" out of every one except the very first)Rue Vital 1
Anatole-de-la-Forge 5 [see 162]
Cambon 7 [Hotel Castille, 8th 119]
Claude-Lorrain 13
Charles-Marie-Widor 15
Marie-Widor 15
Boileau 16
Chardon-Lagache 17
[#9 121] Julien-Potin 22 [Pedro McElvoy? 121] [Porfirio Rubirosa 129]
Ernest-Deloison 22
du Mont-Thabor 25
du Cirque 33
[21, 23] Rayounard 48
de Bassano 49
[10A] Cambaceres (8th) 68
Jenner (school) 89
[1] Gabrielle (18th) 92
Coustou 93
Lepic 93
des Abbesses 93
Germain-Pilon 93
[97] de Rome 5th floor (17th) 96
[26] de Naples (8th) 105
[11] de Berne (8th) 105
[99] de Rome (17th) 105
[97] de Rome (17th) 105
la Boetie 108
[97] de Rome 4th floor (17th) 110
Molitor (16th) 112
Mirabeau (16th) 112
Royale 114
Saint-Honore 114
Longchamp 117
[24] Bayard (8th) 120
Jouy-en-Josas 123
du Docteur-Kurzenne
[22] de Picardie (Nice) 137
Francois-1er 137
[16] Foucault #5 160
Rude 162
de Saigon 162
Chagrin 162

Avenues (for some perverse reason, I thought it might be important to separate out rues, avenues, and boulevards - again, I only used the word <<Avenue>> in the very first one):
Avenue Paul-Doumer 1
Niel 3
de la Grande-Armee 7 [see 162]
des Champs-Élysées 7
de Versailles 18
Montaigne 33
[25] du Marechal-Lyautey 33
de New-York 40
Hoche 108
Victor-Hugo 109

Boulevards (again, I only used the word <<Boulevard>> in the very first one>>):
Boulevard Maurice-Barres 22
Richard-Wallace 22
de Clichy 93
Moulin Rouge 93
Graff's 93
des Batignolles 107
de Courcelles 108
Emile-Augier 113

Places (again, I only mention <<Place>> in the very first one - a <<Place>> is like a Square, i.e., Times Square, Mount Vernon Square, etc.)
Place Pereire 3
Blanche 92
des Abbesses 93
Clichy 107
de L'Etoile 108
de Levis 109
de l'Alma 114
de la Concorde 114
Malesherbes 140
des Saussaies 142

All other nouns except for People:
Paris 1
Hutte's office and furnishings 1
Nice 2
Hortensias (cafe) 3
Ville d'Avray 6
Saint-Cloud 6
Porte de Saint-Cloud 7
Langer's 7
Hotel Castille 7
C.M. Hutte Agency 9
Tanagra 9
Alaverdi 11
Sainte Genevieve-des-Bois 13
Russian Orthodox Church 13
Le Herisson 18
School of Pages 19
Porte Maillot 22
Pont de Puteaux 22
Seine 22
The Emigration 23
Georgian Consulate 27
Yalta 28
Quai du General-Koenig 29
Bar-Restaurant de l'Ile 29
3 Addresses for Gay Orlov 33
Hotel Chateaubriand 33
Hilton Hotel Bar 33
Sur les quais du Vieux Paris 34
Sag Warum 35
Que reste-t-il de nos amours 35
Quai Branly 37
Pont Bir-Hakeim 37
Palm Island Casino 38
Arkansas 38
Quai de Passy 39
Trocadero Gardens 40 [see 161]
Pont d'Iena 40
Hollywood 41
Pont d'Alma 41
Museum of Modern Art 41
Eiffel Tower 44
Auteuil Race Course 46
Military Cross 48
Club du Grand Pavois 48
Motor Yacht Club of the Cote d'Azur 48
Valbreuse, Orne (61,Alencon) 48
Square Henri Pate 16th 49
Golden Tripe Competition 49
Mauritius 49 [Port Louis 158]
Chateau Saint-Lazare 54 [named 67]
Biarritz 59
The billiard table in the summer dining-room 62
LU Biscuit box 63
Photographs in biscuit box 65
La Baule 65
Port of New York 66
French Argentine Consulate 66
DominicanRepublic passport67
ANJou15-28 67
Ph#s - 10A RueCambaceres68
Lists of embassies/legations 69
Dressmakers workshop 73
Paramaribo, DutchGuyana 74
Dominican Embassy 74
Megeve 74
Gilt box - English cigarettes 75
Dominican Legation 75
"Charlie Chan" 79
"Anonymous Letters" 79
Department du Seine 79 (13th)
9A Quai d'Austerlitz 79
AUTeuil54-73 81
"History of the Restoration" (L. de Viel-Castel) 85
A La Marine (cafe) 85
"Men Spreekt Vlaamsch" 85
Photo of Antwerp 86
Gare d'Austerlitz 87
Belgian cigarettes (Laurens) 87
Quai d'Austerlitz 88 [#9, 13th 119]
Belgium 88
Botanical Gardens 91
Wine Market 91
Montmartre 94
Sacre Coeur 94
Vogue 95
Wehrmacht musicians 96
Marie Brizard 97
Alexandria, Egypt 98
"Ship at Anchor" (Scouffi) 98
Skeletal phone conversation 99
Montmartre funicular 100
Sacre Coeur gardens 100
Seine-et Oise (was 78) 103
Seine-et-Marne (77,Melun) 103
Versailles 103
Hotel de Chicago 105
"At The Golden Fish Residential Hotel" (Scouffi) 105
Salle Playel (Brussels) 105
Theatre de la Monnaie (Brussels) 105
Cafe at corner of Rue de Rome and Boulevard de Batignolles 108
Parc Monceau 108
Basque restaurant w/ Gascony fresco 109
The Royal-Villiers, Place de Levis 109
South American legation (Hutte's townhouse) 112
16th arrondissement 112
Cafe at intersection of Rue Mirabeau and Avenue de Versailles 113
Auteuil 113
Chausee de la Muette 113
Russian restaurant with zither player 113
Cours-la-Reine 114
Queen Astrid's 115
Faubourg Saint-Honore 115
Portugal via Switzerland 116
#6 Square de l'Opera 9th 119
Megeve, Haute-Savoie 119
Annemasse, Haute-Savoie 119
Hotel Lincoln 8th 120
Via delle Botteghe Oscure 2 Rome, Italy 120
Valparaiso 122
Plaza Echauren 122
Cerro Alegre District 122
Avenida Errazuriz 123
Protestant church 123
Robin Hood Inn 123
Jouy-en-Josas 123
Wine bar / grocery store on Ave Niel 124
Giverny, Oise 125
Alsace-Lorraine Gardens 127
Eden Roc 127
Square des Aliscamps 128
Neuilly 129
"El Reloj" and "Tu me acostumbraste" (guitar tunes) [129]
Luiza School - Pedro's father would pick up him and Freddie [130] [Luiza and Albany School 135]
Vincennes 132
Vichy 133
Parc des Sources 133
Hotel de la Paix 133
Cafe de la Restauration 133
Border at Hendaye (closed) 135
Chez Arkady (Russian restaurant) sometime around 1937 137
Siberia 138
Courcelles Metro Station 140
Square Edouard-VII 141
The Cintra 141
Côte d'Azure 141
"Collection du Masque" novels 142
Gare de Lyon 142
Sallanches 143
"Invisible" Mentioned 146
"The Southern Cross" Chalet 147
Rochebrune 147
Paris-Sport Magazine 147
Hotel du Mont-Blanc 149
L'Equipe (Adult Chalet) 150
Comet Garage 153 [see 160]
Valda Lozenge 157
Port Louis, Mauritius 158
5 Addresses for Alfred Jean Howard de Luz 158
Island of Padipi 159
Papeete, French Polynesia 164
Bora Bora 165
Salle Pleyel 165
Tuamotu Archipelago 165
Marquesas 165
Moluccan Blackbirds 166
Seaside Resort in Southern Russia 167

Dates (Often given in the form of letters written to Guy Roland from people he asked questions to in his quest to find out about his life - I should have written down the page numbers also, but I didn't):
1872?Marie Rosen born
1885-04-28 Scouffi born
1910-09-30 Waldo Blunt born
1912-07-30 Alfred Jean Howard De Luz born, Port Louis, Mauritius
1912-09-30 Jimmy Pedro Stern born, Salonica Greece
1914 Mara Orlov born
1914 Photo of "black and white" dinner party
1914/1918SalonicaArchivesFire
1917-12-21 Denise born
1920 Scouffi to Feance
1936 Mara Orlov USA->France
????-02-14 Denise and Pedro
1939-04-03 Pedro weds Denise town hall (17th)
1939-04-03 Certified Abstract
1940 Jimmy Stern disappears
1940-12 Pedro McElvoy resides at #9 Rue Julien-Potin, Neuilly, Seine
1941-04 Van Allen opens fashion house #6 Square de l'Opera 9th
1941-07-15 Consulado letter
1945-01 Van Allen's fashion house closes
1943-02 Denise disappears crossing French-Swiss border
1947 C.M. Hutte formed
1950 Mara Orlov dies
1950 Jean Alfred Howard de Luz leaves France for the Island of Padipi, Polynesia, near Bora Bora (Society Isles) 159
1952 Waldo Blunt in Paris
1965-10-23 Gay Orlov memo
1965-11-07 Scouffi memo
1965-11-27 Letter to Pedro from Mrs E. Khan (representing Hutte) telling Pedro all she knows about Oleg de Wrede

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