The United States, the page's country of ori- gin, is undergoing all the electoral hysteria its Right Wing can mus- ter just now, as if a society might be left to govern when they're finished. But once a- gain, they sound ambi- valent about that. A new virus has come to play and, as the natu- ral party of govern- ing, they are innocent.
Just finished Lacombe, Lucien .. I enjoyed it despite the somber mood, but found it remarkably hard to relate to Lucien. Maybe that is the point? The [sexu- al] relationship struck me as particularly absurd - I've al- ways gotten the impression that the vast majority of French cit- izens really rallied around the Resistance during the German oc- cupation, it's hard to believe a young Jewish girl would fall for a member of the Gestapo, much less a French one.
To a certain sense that the teach- ing of history has a very long way to go, with each generation, a cor- respondent helpfully laid bare the range of unawarenesses that it must address in an honors student at a noted university, studying French. Evidently the university assumes no responsibility in the matter, as it is poised to award its degree with- out conferring the requisite support. I replied that these findings will likely be adjusted, by the assimila- tion of information that is bound to come the student's way. But by then, perspectives framing one's career and its expectations will have been cast, and the remarkable culture of our time will have weathered another young mind.
With delight I note that the obscure committee that awards these things has designated Patrick Modiano for the Nobel Prize in literature. This news burst onto the website of our paper of record as I was sip- ping morning coffee, and for a moment which can no longer occur again, I could not en- tirely place the name. Then, I recalled that it's on the spine of the Viking Compass edition I have, of the screen play he wrote with Louis Malle, Lacombe, Lucien, a heartbreak- ingly credible portrait of an unfinished youth's destruction.
As the movie opens, Lucien in- terrupts his mopping of a hos- pital ward, to withdraw a cat- apult - a Wodehousism for our slingshot - from his overalls, to draw a fatal bead on a song- bird in the tree outside. With that, a gulp of recognition set- tles into the gorge with no re- lease, from which one can not move. Overshadowed, undeniably, by Malle's later Au Revoir, Les Enfants, this film is neverthe- less weightier in its story: it places the youth in respon- sibility, as it does for many, in the saddest, most certain way. Louis Malle, I am guessing, en- countered the young Modiano as a protégé of Raymound Queneau, in filming the latter's radiantly brilliant comic novel, Zazie dans le Métro. Modiano, in turn, surely knew Malle's invention of Laurent (from whom this page derives its name, and much else), in Le Souffle au Coeur. My guess is, the Nobel committee has inspired the rediscovery of this [paradoxically] wonderful moment in film history, with an acumen I can not question. We know the idle slayer of song- birds, from memory not just of others. He is not more distant from us than a twig that lurched awry from our own limb, as he is seen by Malle's assured and sub- tle eye, scuffing stones with a surpliced accomplice, in his vil- lage's procession on a mountain path, chanting, Ave Maria. We do not part with Lucien. We lose him.