Promenade Dora-Bruder

Adam Shatz

  • So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano, translated by Euan Cameron
    MacLehose, 160 pp, £8.99, September 2016, ISBN 978 0 85705 499 9

In 1966, a young writer named Patrick Modiano published his first short story, a satire set in a summer concentration camp called ‘Saint-Tropez-Ravensbrück’. Surrounded by ‘charming Kapos’, the inmates – ‘children of Himmler and Coca-Cola’ – are lulled into submission by LSD and hedonism. Paris’s leading artists and intellectuals praise the camp; Jean-Luc Godard offers to shoot a collaborationist film. The title of the story, ‘I Am a Young Man Alone’, expressed its author’s predicament. Two decades after the end of the war, at the height of its trente glorieuses, France had moved on, but Modiano, the son of a Jewish businessman who had made his living on the black market during the Occupation and a Flemish actress who worked in the Nazi film industry, could not. He was so consumed by the history of Occupied Paris, the city where his parents had met, that he felt as if he had memories of it, although he was born in 1945, just after the war ended. As one of his characters would put it: ‘I was only 20 years old, but my memory preceded my birth.’

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