La Place de l'Étoile
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Modiano's debut novel is a sardonic, often grotesque satire of France during the Nazi occupation. We are immediately plunged into the hallucinatory imagination of Raphaël Schlemilovitch, a young Jewish man, torn between self-aggrandisement and self-loathing, who may be the heir to a Venezuelan fortune, may have lived during the Nazi Occupation, may have rubbed shoulders with the most notorious collaborators and anti-Semites of the time, may even have been the lover of Eva Braun . . . or he may have been none of these things. But at the centre of this vortex is 'La Place de l'Étoile'—the Place of the Star—which is both the geographical and moral centre of Paris, and that place next the heart where French Jews were compelled to wear the yellow star, the symbol of their persecution.
see. But right now, I am studying to apply to the École Normale Supérieure like Blum, Fleg and Henri Franck. It would have been tactless to apply to the military academy at Saint-Cyr straightaway.’ We had a last gin-fizz at the bar of the Splendid. My father was wearing his travelling outfit: a crimson fur cap, an astrakhan coat and blue crocodile-skin shoes. A Partagas cigar dangled from his lips. Dark glasses concealed his eyes. He was crying, I realised, from the quaver in his voice. He was
terribly sad. The “enchanted river”, for example, you get into a boat with your friends, you are carried along by the current and when you come to the end you get a bullet in the back of the head. Then there’s the House of Mirrors, the rollercoaster, the merry-go-rounds, the shooting galleries. You stand in front of the distorting mirrors and your emaciated face, your skeletal chest terrify you. The cars on the rollercoaster systematically derail and you break your back. The merry-go-rounds are
passport and proffers it. To my astonishment I read the name Maurice Sachs. Alcohol makes him talkative. He tells us of his misadventures since 1945, the date of his supposed death. He was, successively, a Gestapo officer, a GI, a cattle trader in Bavaria, a broker in Anvers, a brothel-keeper in Barcelona, a clown in a Milan circus under the stage name Lola Montès. He finally settled in Geneva where he runs a small bookshop. To celebrate this chance meeting, we drink until three in the morning.
I’m guessing? Dressed as an Israeli army officer! This just gets better and better! Look, here come my friends. Well, I’m a generous man, let’s crack open a bottle of champagne!’ They were quickly surrounded by a group of revellers who clapped them on the shoulder. He recognised the Marquise de Fougeire-Jusquiames, Vicomte Lévy-Vendôme, Paulo Hayakawa, Sophie Knout, Jean-Farouk de Mérode, Otto da Silva, M. Igor, the ageing Baroness Lydia Stahl, the princess Chericheff-Deborazoff, Louis-Ferdinand
for Nirvana are surprising in a man from Normandy. The second part of my study was entitled ‘Robert Brasillach, or the Maid of Nuremberg.’ ‘There were many of us who slept with Germany,’ he confessed, ‘and the memory of it will remain sweet.’ His impulsiveness reminds me of the young Viennese girls during the Anschluss. As German soldiers marched along Ringstraße, girls dressed up in their chicest dirndls to shower them with roses. Afterwards they strolled in the Prater with these blonde angels.