“Mon Vieux Cahier”

I was very pleased to come across this passage in a book I was reading for my French class: Quartier Perdu, by Patrick Modiano. It’s about a man who returns to Paris after an absence of many years and how he revisits the memories he’d left behind there.

…j’ai tendu le bras vers la table de nuit en direction de mon vieux cahier. Je l’ai posé près de l’oreiller. Je n’avais pas vraiment envie de le consulter. Couverture verte, bords usés, spirales, triangle dans le coin gauche, au sommet duquel était écrit «Clairefontaine». Un simple cahier d’écolier que j’avais acheté un jour dans une papeterie de l’avenue de Wagram et sur lequel j’avais noté des adresses, des numéros de téléphone, quelquefois des rendez-vous: l’un des seuls vestiges de ma vie antérieure a Paris…

My translation:

I stretched my arm towards the night table in the direction of my old notebook. I put it near the pillow. I didn’t really want to look at it. Green cover, worn edges, spiralbound, triangle in the left corner, at the top of which was written “Clairefontaine.” A simple student’s notebook that I’d bought one day in a stationery store on Wagram Avenue and in which I’d noted addresses, telephone numbers, sometimes meetings: one of the only vestiges of my previous life in Paris…

He goes on to say that he could just tear up the notebook, though it would hardly be worthwhile since it’s so old that none of the telephone numbers would be valid anymore, but folded inside the notebook, he finds a letter from an old friend… and from there a mysterious and melancholy story unfolds.

I loved that the notebook was described so vividly, and the way it was a link to a whole other life for the character.

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