‘Dora Bruder’ by Patrick Modiano (1997) – 119 pages Translated by Joanna Kilmartin Grade: B+
If ‘Dora Bruder’ were a film, it would be a documentary.
In ‘Dora Bruder’, Patrick Modiano traces the life of an actual young Jewish victim of the Nazi concentration camps, a fifteen year-old girl. By documenting as much information in detail as he could find, Modiano makes the story of what happened to Dora Bruder more real and even more horrible.
Modiano describes several photographs that were taken of Dora Bruder and her family in Paris. The version of the book I read reprinted two of the photographs, and these photographs serve to give a personality to Dora Bruder and her family.
The language in ‘Dora Bruder’ is clipped and laconic with no extraneous words of description, because it is important for Modiano not to go beyond the limited factual information he has. Nothing here is invented.
Many key documents relating to Dora Bruder are missing, probably destroyed by officials trying to cover up their crimes. In these cases Modiano relies on actual documents which are similar but relate to other individuals.
Most of the German officials as well as some of the French officials overseeing the deportations in Paris were shot in 1945 during the liberation of Paris.
There is one case mentioned in this book of a suspected Jew being fired at in Paris for not wearing the required Jewish insignia, a yellow star, which the Nazis had required. This is only another brutal example of these outlaw Nazis.
As literature, there is just not enough known about Dora Bruder to write a compelling story about her life. This Modiano does not attempt to do. All we have left of Dora are a few documents with her name on it and a few pictures.
At one point Dora Bruder ran away from school. There is just not enough factual information to determine why she ran away, where she lived during that time, or how she survived. Modiano states some of his conjectures about this time.
I think Patrick Modiano is doing something of the utmost importance here, securing the documentation of these atrocities in a somewhat permanent form. Otherwise the entire world will forget, and we will be subject to lies about those involved and about what really happened.