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Authors: Patrick Modiano

After the Circus

BOOK: After the Circus
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After the Circus

English translations of works by Patrick Modiano

From Yale University Press

After the Circus

Paris Nocturne

Pedigree

Suspended Sentences

Also available or forthcoming

The Black Notebook

Catherine Certitude

Dora Bruder

Honeymoon

In the Café of Lost Youth

Lacombe Lucien

Missing Person

Out of the Dark

So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood

The Occupation Trilogy (The Night Watch, Ring Roads, and La Place de l'Etoile)

Villa Triste

Young Once

After the Circus

A novel by Patrick Modiano

Translated from the French
by Mark Polizzotti

The Margellos World Republic of Letters is dedicated to making literary works from around the globe available in English through translation. It brings to the English-speaking world the work of leading poets, novelists, essayists, philosophers, and playwrights from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to stimulate international discourse and creative exchange.

English translation copyright © 2015 by Mark Polizzotti. Originally published as
Un cirque passe.
© Editions Gallimard, Paris, 1992. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers.

Yale University Press books may be purchased in quantity for educational, business, or promotional use. For information, please e-mail
[email protected]
(U.S. office) or
[email protected]
(U.K. office).

Designed by Nancy Ovedovitz.
Set in MT Baskerville type by Tseng Information Systems, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015940845
ISBN
978-0-300-21589-2 (paper: alk. paper)

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. This paper meets the requirements of
ANSI
/
NISO Z
39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For my parents

After the Circus

I was eighteen, and the man whose face I don't recall was typing up my legal status, address, and supposed student enrollment as fast as I could state them. He asked how I spent my free time.

I paused for a few seconds.

“I go to movies and bookstores.”

“You
don't just
go to movies and bookstores.”

He cited the name of a café. No matter how often I repeated that I'd never set foot in the place, I could tell he didn't believe me. Finally, he contented himself with typing the following:

“I go to movies and bookstores. I have never been to the Café de la Tournelle, at number 61 on the quay of that name.”

Then more questions about my activities and my parents. Yes, I took literature courses at the university. There was no danger in telling him that lie: I really had enrolled in the program, but only to prolong my draft deferment. As for my parents, they were both abroad and I had no idea when they'd return, if ever.

Then he mentioned the names of a man and a woman and asked if I knew them. I answered no. He told me to think very carefully. If I didn't tell the truth, there could be serious consequences. The threat was delivered in a calm, indifferent voice. No, really, I didn't know those two individuals. He typed my answer, then handed me the sheet, at the bottom of which was written: “Seen and agreed to.” I didn't bother looking over my deposition and signed with a ballpoint pen that was lying on the desk.

Before leaving, I asked why I'd had to submit to that interrogation.

“Your name was in someone's address book.”

But he didn't say who that someone was.

“We'll be in touch if we need you again.”

He saw me to the door of his office. In the hallway, on the leather bench, sat a girl of about twenty-two.

“You're next,” he said to the girl.

She stood up. We exchanged glances. Through the door that he'd left ajar, I saw her
sit down in the same chair that I'd occupied a moment earlier.

I found myself back on the quay. It was around five in the afternoon. I walked toward the Pont Saint-Michel, thinking that I might wait for the girl to come out after her interrogation. But I couldn't just loiter about police headquarters. I decided to bide my time in the café on the corner of Boulevard du Palais, where it meets the quay. And what if she had gone in the opposite direction, toward the Pont-Neuf ? The thought never occurred to me.

I was seated near the window, my eyes fixed on the Quai des Orfèvres. Her interrogation lasted much longer than mine. Night had already fallen when I saw her walking toward the café.

As she was passing by, I tapped on the window with the back of my hand. She looked at me in surprise, then came inside to join me.

She sat down at my table as if we knew each other and had made a date. She was the first to speak.

“Did they ask you a lot of questions?”

“My name was in someone's address book.”

“Do you know who?”

“They wouldn't tell me. But maybe you can shed some light.”

She knitted her brow.

“Shed light on what?”

“I figured your name must have been in that address book, too, and they were questioning you about the same thing.”

“No. With me, it was just to give evidence.”

She seemed preoccupied. It felt like she was slowly forgetting I was there. I kept silent. Then she smiled. She asked how old I was. I said twenty-one, making myself three years older: legal age, at the time.

“Do you have a job?”

“I deal in used books,” I said randomly, in a tone I tried to make convincing.

She looked at my face, no doubt wondering if she could trust me.

“Will you do me a favor?” she asked.

At Place du Châtelet, she wanted to take the metro. It was rush hour. We stood squeezed together near the doors. At every station, the riders getting off pushed us onto the platform. Then we got back on with the new passengers. She leaned her head on my shoulder and said with a smile that “no one could find us in this crowd.”

At the Gare du Nord metro stop, we were carried along in the flood of travelers heading for the commuter trains. We crossed through the train station lobby, and in the checkroom she opened a locker and pulled out a black leather suitcase.

I carried the suitcase, which was rather heavy. It occurred to me that it contained more than just clothes. The metro again, same line but in the opposite direction. This time we found seats. We got off at Cité.

At the end of the Pont-Neuf, we waited for the light to turn red. I was feeling increasingly anxious. I wondered how Grabley would greet us when we arrived at the apartment. Shouldn't
I tell her about Grabley, so that his presence there wouldn't catch her off guard?

We walked past the Hôtel des Monnaies. I heard the clock on the Institut de France chime nine
P.M
.

“Are you sure no one will mind if I come to your place?” she asked.

“Nope. No one.”

There were no lights in the apartment windows facing the quay. Had Grabley gone to his room, on the courtyard side? Normally he parked his car in the middle of the little square that forms a recess between the Hôtel des Monnaies and the Institut, but it wasn't there.

I opened the door on the fourth floor and we walked through the foyer. We entered the room that had served as my father's office. Light fell from a naked bulb dangling from the ceiling. No furniture left, except for an old couch with dark red leaf patterns.

I set the suitcase down next to the couch. She went to the window.

“You have a nice view …”

To the left was one end of the Pont des Arts and the Louvre. Directly in front, the tip of Ile de la Cité and the small Vert-Galant park.

We sat on the couch. She looked around her and seemed amazed by the sparseness of the room.

“Are you moving out?”

I told her that, unfortunately, we had to vacate the premises in a month. My father had gone to Switzerland to live out his days.

“Why Switzerland?”

It really was too long a story for that evening. I shrugged. Grabley would be back any minute. How would he react when he saw the girl and her suitcase? I was afraid he would call my father in Switzerland, and that the latter, in a last gasp of parental dignity, would try to play the noble paterfamilias, lecture me about my studies and endangered future. But he was wasting his time.

“I'm tired …”

I suggested she lie down on the couch. She hadn't removed her raincoat. I remembered that the heating no longer worked.

“Are you hungry? I can go get something from the kitchen …”

She sat on the couch, legs folded under her, resting on her heels.

“Don't go to any trouble. Maybe just something to drink …”

The light in the foyer had gone off. The bow window in the wide front hall leading to the kitchen lit the room with pale glimmers, as if there were a full moon out. Grabley had left the light on in the kitchen. In front of the old dumbwaiter stood an ironing board on which I recognized the trousers of his glen plaid suit. He ironed his own shirts and other clothes. On the folding table, where I sometimes took my meals with him, was an empty yogurt jar, a banana peel, and a packet of instant coffee. He must have eaten in. I found two yogurts, a slice of salmon, some fruit, and a bottle of whiskey three-quarters empty. When I returned, she was reading one of the magazines that Grabley had let pile up for several weeks on the office mantelpiece,
“risqué” periodicals, as he called them, for which he had a great fondness.

I set the tray down in front of us, on the floor.

She had left the magazine open next to her and I could make out the black-and-white photo of a naked woman, seen from behind, hair tied in a ponytail, left leg extended, right leg bent, her knee resting on a mattress.

“Interesting reading matter you've got …”

“No, those aren't mine … They belong to a friend of my father's.”

She bit into an apple and poured herself some whiskey.

“What have you got in that suitcase?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing much … Some personal effects …”

“It was heavy. I thought it was stuffed with gold bricks.”

She gave me a sheepish smile. She explained that she lived in a house not far from Paris, near Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, but the owners had come back unexpectedly last night. She preferred to
leave, as she didn't really get along with them. Tomorrow she would go to a hotel, until she could find a permanent place to live.

“You can stay here as long as you like.”

I was sure that Grabley, after his initial surprise, would have no objections. As for my father, what he thought no longer mattered.

BOOK: After the Circus
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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