After The Circus

After the Circus: A Novel (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)

I’m continuing with my IV drip of Modiano, translated by Mark Polizzotti. It’s fascinating to see the overlap of his work by doing a heads down focus on him today. For example, Montherlant’s The Girls is a book that he notes his mother recommending to him in Pedigree, oddly, because she’d clearly never read a word of Montherlant in her life (the suggestion came from her journalist friend). In After The Circus, the book comes up again, recommended by a man who struck up a conversation with the narrator in a cafe (who was a journalist). I was about to add it to the list but a reviewer on Amazon warns that “it’s an epic of misogyny by a very gifted writer.” Pass.

This was a quick tale of a teenage boy abandoned by his parents and selling books to make ends meet (a detail shared with the character in Afterimage), ostensibly headed to Rome to work for a bookseller in a few months. He’s picked up by police, questioned, and then sees a woman waiting to be questioned right after him. He goes to a cafe and waits for her, then taps the glass when she walks by. He offers her a place to stay and she stashes her suitcase with him in his father’s old office (his father has fled to Switzerland, much like real life Modiano’s father). She passes him off as her brother to a group of people they meet up with later, and the two get pressed into doing a favor for the leader of the group which is a bit shady. The narrator is given 2,000 francs to walk up to a man at a bar and tell him that the other man is waiting for him in a car. This done, the car speeds away, and the narrator is sure the man will come to some harm. The woman and he plot to leave, but are detained by the job not being ready in Rome. The woman drives off to gather some of her remaining items and is killed in an accident that seems not to be so accidental.