Dora Bruder, by Patrick Modiano (translated by Joanna Kilmartin), is a book that was an intriguing and compelling read for me.
From Modiano’s first spark of interest in Dora Bruder’s life, to his final analysis, the story line is structured much like a detective story, and an ongoing investigation that he becomes obsessed with. His interest in her life began when he read about her in an old newspaper from 1941.
Dora Bruder was Jewish, and she was 15-years old at the time, and had literally disappeared off the face of the streets of Paris. Her parents placed an in the newspaper “Paris Soir”, which ran in the personal column on New Years Eve, 1941. “Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes.”
Once Modiano sees that notice, he begins to investigate every document, every crevice, every bit of information he can gather on her. His ten-year investigation leads him down streets he once lived on, down avenues he walked many times before, and into buildings and archives in order to garner as much information as possible. He speaks with people, from all walks of life. He is unable to let go of her, and his need to know sets him on a journey that also includes his own depictions of self-discovery.
Dora Bruder is short on pages, less than 140 pages, but it is filled with depth and intensity. Modiano’s quest for Dora Bruder, is also a quest for the answers to his own childhood, one that was filled with troublesome events, due to his Jewish father’s collaborations during the Holocaust. Within the realm of his difficult childhood, we see similarities between them, such as loss of a happy childhood, loss of a stable environment while growing up, and the loss associated with negative memories.
Modiano’s memories abound within the framework, as his research continually evokes thoughts of his own losses and life events. In essence, although the book is a novel, it is sustained by amazing facts and data. One might say it is a cross between fiction and memoir, due to the fact that Modiano’s life, itself, fills the pages through his reflecting upon his past.
For me, Dora Bruder, was masterfully written by Patrick Modiano. He had me deeply focused on the pains of loss, and how the past follows us throughout our life. His dedication to interviewing, dedication to research, documentation, and his physical involvement in walking the streets of Paris in order to gain more information is something to applaud him for.