Extreme Contemporary French Literature: Dora Bruder


One of the courses that I am taking this term is covers the French novel in the last decade, i.e. since 1997. After deciding to recommend the English version of the book we are currently studying to a friend, I decided to write a discussion of the first two books of the course. Keep in mind that although an English version of a particular book may exist, I read the French version and that’s the cover I am using and the version that I am linking to.

Dora Bruder

Dora Bruder, by Patrick Modiano

This book was published in 1997, but it is the story of a young girl named Dora Bruder, re-created by Patrick Modiano, who was born in 1945, after the war had ended. Why do I say that her story is “re-created” and not simply “told” by Modiano? Well, the fact is that we don’t know what happened to many people during the Second World War, so this story is a piecing together of Modiano’s suppositions about what her life was really like and the facts that he is able to dig up through his and Serge Klarsfeld’s research. Some may argue that the book is non-fiction, such as the Seattle Public Library, and this is a topic which we debated in class. Personally, I think that the suppositions on the part of Modiano and the fact that it isn’t entirely a factual representation of Dora’s life, make it into a piece of fiction.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found Modiano’s obsession with understanding Dora’s life to be a bit weird, until I looked at it from the perspective of wanting to ensure that the French don’t continue to forget about the true events of the Second World War. In a way, we can look at Dora Bruder as a name representing many of the young girls whose lives were tied up in the war and Modiano helps to make sure that her story is known. What I enjoyed most about the book was the artful way in which Modiano crafted the story – piece by piece, he revealed little bits more about Dora’s life, keeping you around to find out what happens next. And for those of you whose French reading level is iffy, but still somewhat there – this isn’t a particularly difficult read language-wise in French, though the topics are a tad tricky to read at times.

Stay tuned for a brief discussion of the book we are currently studying – Un Secret by Philippe Grimbert, whose English version is titled “Memory: A Novel”!


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