The Black Notebook
The Black Notebook is for all poets who pay attention. Modiano’s quiet and understated novella weaves masterfully through time, memory and reflection. Black ink scratches white pages. This is a story of making lists, marking time in cafes, walking along dark Parisian streets. Appointments, addresses, bits of conversation; shadowy vignettes bleed into each other as Jean retraces his steps half a century earlier. Each bit of information is written “to preserve at least some proof of their existence,” when proof and identity are as elusive as the wind. We are reminded that not all notes we take are relevant, or even as useful to us as we imagine they might be as we write them.
At first Modiano’s stream-of-consciousness style is difficult to follow, but the story’s relative lack of linearity ceases to matter early on. Among the character remnants is a partial portrait of Dannie, whose dark past is left lurking in the reader’s periphery. While her relationship to Jean, her reasons for being in Paris and her motives remain uncertain, their repetition and partial depiction normalise their secrecy. The Black Notebook has no one point of origin, and no sense of completion. Yet its transient characters beguile and intrigue throughout, and it’s the perfect narrative to let yourself get lost in on a dark autumn evening.
Words – Olivia Fader