Suspended Sentences is a collection of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano’s three novellas: Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, all translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti. Afterimage is about a young man who follows a photographer around Paris and catalogs his photographs; Suspended Sentences tells the story of a young boy and his brother and the people they were entrusted to after their parents left to work for the circus, and; Flowers of Ruin is also the story of a boy who remembers a part of his childhood, his father, and a murder mystery that transpired at the time.
Of the three novellas, I liked Afterimage and Suspended Sentences; the last one was a chore to read.
All three novellas explored very hazy plots and vague characters. It appears to be a common theme in the three stories. At first, the nebulousness of the characters was intriguing, but by the third story, I felt like I was at the end of my wits.
The book started out strong with Afterimage, which I would consider as my favorite novella from the lot. Francis Jansen, a photographer, takes a photo of the unnamed narrator and his girlfriend, Colette, whom he approaches in a café somewhere in Paris. They strike up a conversation, ending up with the narrator taking up the job of cataloging Jansen’s photographs, which were in a heap in his apartment. Thereafter, certain coincidences – as the narrator himself calls them – come to the fore: Jansen became involved with a woman named Colette, our narrator’s girlfriend’s namesake, and later, he realizes that his name is Francis Jansen.