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Patrick Modiano: 7 Passages - In English - From France's Obscure Nobel Prize Winner

Cabaret performances at the Moulin Rouge continued during Nazi occupation.
Cabaret performances at the Moulin Rouge continued during Nazi occupation.

PARIS – The 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded Thursday to Patrick Modiano, a 69-year-old French author whose work you probably don't know if you aren't from France. Indeed, most of his books have remained untranslated, though that may change after his Nobel win.

The committee in Stockholm cited the author's "art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies." Much of his best-known work centers around the experience in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II.

His French fans here at the Worldcrunch office in Paris speak of "his own genre" …. "really more poetry than prose" … "disappear(ing) into his language."

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With the help of a Babelio fan page, we have collected and translated a small selection of passages from four of his books. The first come from the novel Rue Des Boutiques Obscure that shot him to fame after it was awarded France's Prix Goncourt. It was translated into English with the title Missing Person. The other books are not available in English.

Rue des Boutiques Obscures 1978
"Until then everything had seemed so chaotic, so fragmented... Scraps, shreds of something were coming back to me as a result of my searches. But after all, that is perhaps what a life is."

Vestiaire de l'Enfance(Childhood Locker) 1989
"And this old immortal's secret to a century of longevity, it had to be the utter absense of that organ that tires quickly: the heart."

La Petite Bijou (The Small Jewelry) 2001
"Beware of what we call witnesses."

Un Pedigree (A Pedigree) 2005
"I would like to translate this impression that many others have felt before: everything was passing before me, transparent, and I could not yet live my life."

Dans Le Café de la Jeunesse Perdue (In The Cafe of Lost Youth) 2007
"When you really love someone, you must accept their part of mystery. And that's why you love them."

L'Herbe des Nuits (The Grass of Nights) 2012
"Since I started writing these pages, I've been telling myself that there is a way to fight against oblivion. It's to go to certain parts of Paris where you had not returned for 30, 40 years and stay there the afternoon, as if you were standing guard."

Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier (So That You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood) 2014
"Almost nothing. Like an insect's bite that seems like nothing at first. Or at least, that's what you whisper to yourself for reassurance."

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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