Catherine Certitude

  • WINNER OF THE 2014 NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE!

This charming book will delight any child — or adult — who appreciates ballet, Paris, New York, childhood, and mystery (not necessarily in that order). The book’s plot is deceptively simple: Catherine, the eponymous heroine, begins her story watching her own daughter demonstrate jazz steps in their ballet school on a snowy afternoon in New York. Memory takes her (and the reader) back to her childhood, spent in the tenth arrondissement of Paris. In her youth, Catherine lives with her gentle father, Georges Certitude, who runs a shipping business with his partner, a loud, failed poet named Casterade. The real partners in this story, however, are the father and daughter who share the simple pleasures of daily life: sitting in the church square, walking to school, going to her ballet class every Thursday afternoon.

Behind this gossamer storyline, Catherine Certitude is filled with mystery. Why did Georges change his name to Certitude? What kind of trouble with the law did Casterade rescue him from? Exactly what does Georges do, and what kind of deals is he always discussing with men in worn raincoats? Why did Catherine’s mother, herself a ballerina, leave Georges to return to New York? That these mysteries remain mysteries is part of the book’s charm. But that Catherine and her father love the ballet, music, and City of Lights, is certain.

Read excerpts of Modiano’s works here.

Patrick Modiano was born near Paris 1945. His other works in English include Catherine Certitude (Godine, 1993), Missing Person (Godine, 2005) for which he won the Prix Goncourt in 2008, A Trace of Malice, and the screenplay Lacombe Lucien (with Louis Malle).