Catherine Certitude


Although Catherine Certitude is an adult, a dance teacher in New York, she spent her childhood years in Paris with her father. She reminisces about their life Hauteville Street, above her father’s dubious business Casterade et Certitude. Catherine was never entirely certain of her Papa’s business, although there was a lot of coming and going, packages and deals, odds and ends, and whispered dealings.

Furthermore it seemed that Papa owed M. Casterade in some way. That was the reason that he tolerated M. Casterade’s pomposity. When Casterade sought to interfere in Catherine’s homework or recited poetry, Papa would urge her to remove her glasses, so that the world was softer and less urgent.

Removing her glasses made dancing a joy for Catherine too. Her lessons with Madame Dismailova offered her a Thursday appointment, the chance to meet Papa after class and then a friend in Odile.

Yet what of Mama in New York? Thereafter, what of Papa’s dealings. Rather like what can be seen without glasses, life is rather blurred and wonderful for Catherine. It’s shaving foam mornings with Papa, and lunches avoiding Casterade. Then it’s the whole romance of Paris.

Patrick Modiano, 2014 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, offers a classic novel of reminiscences, nostalgia and love for a beautiful city. Catherine Certitude is perfectly told, sympathetic, loving and warm, with captivating illustrations from the marvellous Sempé


Catherine Certitude

Patrick Modiano, illustrated by Sempé

(Andersen Press)

Catherine Certitude reflects upon the childhood she spent in Paris with her father, almost thirty years before. They would play with his shaving foam, and lunch together around the corner from his work. Catherine was forbidden to wear her glasses when she danced. However, she considers ‘If I could see normally without glasses, I wouldn’t dance nearly as well. It’s an advantage’.
Catherine removes her glasses when she’s addressed by her father’s business partner. M. Casterade badgers Catherine about poetry and spelling. It seems that he has some secret hold in the business he shares, yet Catherine is never entirely sure. Furthermore, she’s not certain about what her father does. It seems to involve talking to people on park benches and thereafter trucks of airline seating and dancing statues. After that, her father is keen to join Catherine when she’s invited to a salubrious address. He suggests to the assembled crowd that they arrived by Citroën, although there’s a borrowed truck parked around the corner.
Bookwagon loves this book by Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano. Not only is it a memoir, a love letter to Paris, but it is illustrated by the great Sempé. Furthermore, there is some ‘class’, some elegant mystery, that suggests Catherine Certitude is a tale for sharing, loving and gifting.


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