In 1988 Patrick Modiano stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: “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.”
Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942.
What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period—lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Pétain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial.
Patrick Modiano was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature and is one of the most celebrated French novelists of his generation. Dora Bruder has been translated worldwide in 20 languages.
"Modiano has an almost paranormal capacity to sense vibrations from the past or intimations of the future."
—Debarati Sanyal Public Books
“He has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”—Nobel Foundation
"A hauntingly fetching book."—Kirkus Reviews
"The memory of its poignant passages may remain with a reader forever."—Boston Globe
"Modiano makes us hear in the first person, very distinctly, his own literary voice—clear, beautiful, and true—in speech and memory that never falter."—Le Nouvel Observateur
"One day, Patrick Modiano felt himself to be 'someone else': he had begun to read the 'Memorial of the deportation of French Jews' established by Serge Klarsfeld. That was in 1978. 'At first, I doubted literature,' says Modiano, 'for, since the principal engine of literature is memory, it seemed to me that the sole book that could be written was this memorial.'"—From L'Exprés