Book review: Lacombe Lucien – I love France 191

Lacombe Lucien:
the screenplay


Lacombe Lucien

Author: Patrick Modiano and Louis Malle
Translator: Sabine Destrée
Publisher: Other Press
US Release date: May 31, 2016
Lacombe, Lucien
was first released in French in 1974!
Pages: 160
ISBN: 978-1590517659
also available as ebook
Genre: play


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Yesterday, I presented a novel by Modiano originally published in French in 1975. Today, it’s about another of his works, published even a year earlier. Exceptionally, it is not a novel, but a screenplay, co-written with Louis Malle. Lacombe Lucien was nominated for the 1975 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

Indeed, Modiano not only wrote novels, but also another play. a few books for children, and some essays.

Yesterday, I mentioned it is not unusual to find common characters between his books. You will find one both in Villa Triste presented here yesterday, and in Lacombe Lucien: a dog actually, a great dane!

The story of this screenplay is set in June 1944 in a small city in Southwestern France, during the German occupation of France.
The plot focuses on Lucien, 17. He is eager to join the Resistance, but deemed too young.

As a reaction, or just maybe because he is bored and can’t figure out how to give meaning to his life, he ends up joining a group of French police, allied with the German police, after being caught spying through a window. Innocently at first maybe, he ends up into less than honorable situations, that do not bring luck to people who know him.

He seems to have nothing to lose, or he is indifferent, and gets even more tough and insensitive, until he falls in love with a young Jewish girl, and his life becomes much more complicated.

There are great dialogs and precise descriptions of the scenes, with many details, certainly very helpful for a screenplay, but also totally characteristic of Modiano’s usual style.

I enjoyed the way the ambiance and complexity of life in France at the time was evoked, especially for Jews, but also how some managed to survive for a while through heavy bribes; and the conflicts between German occupants and the French Resistance network are well presented, not in black and white, but in a kind of grey zone, conveying things are never that easy to discern in that type of situations.


Texte du scénario de Lacombe, Lucien, co-écrit par Modiano et Louis Malle, proposé aux Oscars en 1975. On y retrouve l’attention modianesque aux détails.

VERDICT: Modiano’s screenplay of a movie nominated for the Oscars in 1975. In typical Modiano’s style, it evokes the complex situation of France during the German occupation, through the life of a French teenager.


Patrick Modiano and Louis Malle’s screenplay for the Oscar-nominated film tells a powerful story set in World War II France of a seventeen-year-old boy who allies himself with collaborators, only to fall in love with a Jewish girl.
This early work by the Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano relates the story of Lucien Lacombe: a poor boy in Nazi-occupied France who, rebuffed in his efforts to enter the Resistance for a taste of war, becomes a member of a sordid, pathetic group of Fascist collaborators who join the Gestapo in preying upon their countrymen. Lucien encounters the Horns, a Jewish family from Paris hiding in his provincial town. Inevitably, he must choose between the coarse appeal of violence and his emerging feelings of tenderness for the family’s daughter, France. Amid the excesses brought on by the impending collapse of the Nazi occupation, Lucien and France come to live out an improbable idyll. This classic is an essential read for students and film lovers alike.


Patrick ModianoPatrick Modiano is a French language novelist
and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature.
He is a winner of the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972,
the Prix Goncourt in 1978
for his novel Rue des boutiques obscures
and of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014.

Modiano’s parents met in occupied Paris during World War II and began their relationship in semi-clandestinity. Modiano’s childhood took place in a unique atmosphere: between the absence of his father — of which he heard many troubled stories — and his mother’s frequent tours, he had to complete his secondary education by government aid. This brought him closer to his brother, Rudy, who died of a disease at age 10 (the works of Patrick Modiano from 1967 to 1982 are dedicated to him). This disappearance announced the end of the author’s childhood, who continued to hold a marked nostalgia for this period.

Modiano studied at the École du Montcel primary school in Jouy-en-Josas, at the Collège Saint-Joseph de Thônes in Haute-Savoie, and then at the Lycée Henri-IV high school in Paris. While he was at Henri-IV, he took geometry lessons from writer Raymond Queneau, who was a friend of Modiano’s mother. He received his baccalaureate at Annecy but didn’t proceed with his higher education.

His meeting with Queneau, the author of Zazie dans le métro, is crucial. Modiano was introduced to the literary world by Queneau, and this gave him the opportunity to attend a cocktail party given by publishing house Éditions Gallimard. He published his first novel, La Place de l’Étoile, with them in 1968, after having read the manuscript to Raymond Queneau. Starting that year, he did nothing but write.

Eiffel Tower Orange

What’s your favorite novel
on the German occupation of France?


Eiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower Orange

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counted for these Reading Challenges

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6 thoughts on “Book review: Lacombe Lucien – I love France 191

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