The Occupation Trilogy
This is a single-volume presentation of Patrick Modiano’s three short novels, originally published in the 1960s through 1972. La Place De L’Étoile, The Night Watch, and Ring Roads each describe the subjugation of France during the German occupation in World War II.
La Place De L’Étoile tells the story of Raphael Schlenilovitch, a young Jewish man who collaborates with the Nazis by providing them with prostitutes. He is coarse and crude and believes that the future of Jewish literature rests on his shoulders. He is anti-socialist, living a shallow, decadent cosmopolitan life. He also obtains women for the white slave market, providing his employer with young French women. The story fails to mention the Holocaust or the treatment of Jews who were moved from France to Germany’s gas chambers.
The Night Watch is about an unnamed 20-year-old protagonist who is hired by a Parisian detective agency comprised of thugs and ruffians. During the German occupation of Paris, their mission is to collect protection money while blackmailing and torturing those in the underground for the “honor and glory” of their Paris. Our protagonist willingly becomes a double agent, confused as to who or what he represents.
In Ring Roads, a group of people migrates to a small village near Paris during the war. Jean Murraille is editor of a Paris newspaper; Guy Marcheret, age 36, is a count who served in the Foreign Legion before the war; and Serge Alexander, the storyteller, is a young man who joins this group. Included in the mysterious group is Serge’s estranged father (who tried to throw him under an oncoming train several years earlier) and several women who participate in the orgies held at the local summer home.
The author blends together the historical facts of war-torn Paris with fictional characters who attempt to cope with the German occupation, while certain citizens side with the enemy out of greed in their attempt to stay alive. All three novels provide an array of characters that make it difficult to feel empathy for the protagonists. Also, there is little closure at the end of each novel, thereby failing to resolve the narratives. I still recommend this book of stories of occupied France, if only to educate those who are too young to remember the war and wish to learn more about those who were caught up in the moment