“Almost nothing. Like an insect bite that initially strikes you as very slight. At least that is what you tell yourself in a low voice so as to reassure yourself.”
THE perfect novel, I might speculate, would be 155 pages long with plenty of white space, say 230 words a page or 35,000 words in total, enough for some central characters and a cast. For example the length of a Maigret story or an Agatha Christie murder. You can have bigger but essentially you would be bolting on a second module. Concision is a benefit.
Take this by way of an example of brevity:
“The notes retraced her career path. Arrival in Paris when very young from provincial France. Job in a nightclub in rue de Ponthieu. Room in a hotel in the Odeon district. She goes around with students from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. List of people questioned and whom she may have met in the night club, list of students at the Beaux-Arts. Body found in a hotel bedroom, 15 th arrondissement”.
Around this Modiano weaves a mystery of supreme paranoia, a victim (who?) as he says in his opening line of an insect bite…an infection. The street geography and the aspen tree outside of Daragane’s window frame a tale of mind games. The past is unpacked like some valuable box of antiques.
Beautifully polished, beguiling, leading not to trite Hawaii 50 style of ending, but a riddle.
See also here. This translation is by Euan Cameron.