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Dora BruderDora Bruder
Patrick Modiano


Dora Bruder(邦題『1941年。パリの尋ね人』)の英訳がさっそく図書館にあったので借りて読み始めました。ちょうどノーベル賞のサイトで冒頭を朗読してくれています。フランス語ですが。。。

Excerpt from Dora Bruder/The Search Warrant
Eight years ago, in an old copy of Paris Soir dated 31 December 1941, a heading on page three caught my eye: "From Day to Day".* Below this, I read:

Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1.55m, oval-shaped face, grey-brown eyes, grey sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy-blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes. Address all information to M. and Mme Bruder, 41 Boulevard Ornano, Paris.

I had long been familiar with the area around the Boulevard Ornano. As a child, I would accompany my mother to the Saint-Ouen flea markets. We would get off the bus either at the Porte de Clignancourt or, occasionally, outside the 18th arrondissement Town Hall. Always, it was a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.


The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014
Patrick Modiano
Nobel Lecture
7 December, 2014

Words checked = [4501]
Words in Oxford 3000™ = [91%]


Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.


The phrase that stood out for me in the declaration following the announcement of this Nobel Prize was an allusion to World War II: 'he uncovered the life-world of the occupation'. Like everyone else born in 1945, I was a child of the war and more precisely, because I was born in Paris, a child who owed his birth to the Paris of the occupation. Those who lived in that Paris wanted to forget it very quickly or at least only remember the day-to-day details, the ones which presented the illusion that everyday life was after all not so very different from the life they led in normal times. It was all a bad dream, with vague remorse for having been in some sense survivors. Later on, when their children asked them questions about that period and that Paris, their answers were evasive. Or else they remained silent as if they wanted to rub out those dark years from their memory and keep something hidden from us. But faced with the silence of our parents we worked it all out as if we had lived it ourselves.

That Paris of the occupation was a strange place. On the surface, life went on 'as before' – the theatres, cinemas, music halls and restaurants were open for business. There were songs playing on the radio. Theatre and cinema attendances were in fact much higher than before the war, as if these places were shelters where people gathered and huddled next to each other for reassurance. But there are bizarre details indicating that Paris was not at all the same as before. The lack of cars made it a silent city – a silence that revealed the rustling of trees, the clip-clopping of horses' hooves, the noise of the crowd's footsteps and the hum of voices. In the silence of the streets and of the black-out imposed at around five o'clock in winter, during which the slightest light from windows was forbidden, this city seemed to be absent from itself – the city 'without eyes' as the Nazi occupiers used to say. Adults and children could disappear without trace from one moment to the next, and even among friends, nothing was ever really spelled out and conversations were never frank because of the feeling of menace in the air.

In this Paris from a bad dream, where anyone could be denounced or picked up in a round-up at a Métro station exit, chance meetings took place between people whose paths would never have crossed during peace time, fragile love affairs were born in the gloom of the curfew, with no certainty of meeting again in the days that followed. Later, as a consequence of these often short-lived and sometimes shabby encounters, children were born. That is why for me, the Paris of the occupation was always a kind of primordial darkness. Without it I would never have been born. That Paris never stopped haunting me, and my books are sometimes bathed in its veiled light.

And here is proof that a writer is indelibly marked with the date of his birth and by his time, even if he was not directly involved in political action, even if he gives the impression of being a recluse shut away in what people call his 'ivory tower'. If he writes poems, they reflect the time he is living in and could never have been written in a different era.


This is especially true in a poem by Yeats, the great Irish writer, which I have always found deeply moving: The Wild Swans at Coole. In a park, Yeats is watching some swans glide on the water:

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Swans often appear in 19th century poetry – in Baudelaire or Mallarmé. But this poem by Yeats could not have been written in the 19th century. It has a particular rhythm and a melancholy which places it in the 20th century and even in the year in which it was written.

A writer of the 20th century may also, on occasion, feel imprisoned by his time, and reading the great 19th century novelists – Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky – may bring on a certain nostalgia. In those days, time passed more slowly than today, and this slowness suited the work of the novelist because it allowed him to marshal his energy and his attention. Time has speeded up since then and moves forward in fits and starts – explaining the difference between the towering literary edifices of the past, with their cathedral-like architectures, and the disjointed and fragmented works of today. From this point of view, my own generation is a transitional one, and I would be curious to know how the next generations, born with the Internet, mobile phones, emails and tweets, will express through literature this world in which everyone is permanently 'connected' and where 'social networks' are eating into that part of intimacy and secrecy that was still our own domain until quite recently – the secrecy that gave depth to individuals and could become a major theme in a novel. But I will remain optimistic about the future of literature and I am convinced that the writers of the future will safeguard the succession just as every generation has done since Homer ...


In his short story 'The Man of the Crowd', Edgar Allen Poe was among the first to evoke the waves of humanity he observes outside a café window, walking the pavements in endless succession. He picks out an old man with an unusual appearance and follows him overnight into different parts of London in order to find out more about him. But the unknown person is a 'man of the crowd' and it is pointless following him because he will always remain anonymous and it will never be possible to find out anything about him. He does not have an individual existence, he is simply part of the mass of passers-by walking in serried ranks or jostling and losing themselves in the streets.

都市と小説家で東京は永井荷風が例として挙げられています。21世紀に入りメガ都市になるにつれ小説のかたちも変わるのではと述べていますが、it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible againと小説家の役割は変わらないとしてしめています。

You can lose yourself or disappear in a big city. You can even change your identity and live a new life. You can indulge in a very long investigation to find a trace of malice, starting only with one or two addresses in an isolated neighbourhood. I have always been fascinated by the short note that sometimes appears on search records: Last known address. Themes of disappearance, identity and the passing of time are closely bound up with the topography of cities. That is why since the 19th century, cities have been the territory of novelists, and some of the greatest of them are linked to a single city: Balzac and Paris, Dickens and London, Dostoyevsky and Saint Petersburg, Tokyo and Nagai Kafū, Stockholm and Hjalmar Söderberg.

I am of the generation which was influenced by these novelists, and which wanted in turn to explore what Baudelaire called the 'sinuous folds of the old capital cities'. Of course, fifty years ago – in other words when adolescents of my age were experiencing powerful sensations by discovering their city – cities were changing. Some of them, in America and what people call the third world, became 'megacities' reaching disturbing dimensions. The inhabitants are divided up into often neglected neighbourhoods, living in a climate of social warfare. Slums are increasing in number and becoming ever more sprawling. Until the 20th century, novelists maintained a more or less 'romantic' vision of the city, not so different from Dickens' or Baudelaire's. That is why I would like to know how the novelists of the future will evoke these gigantic urban concentrations in works of fiction.

Concerning my books, you were kind enough to allude to 'the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies'. But this compliment is about more than just me. It is about a peculiar kind of memory, which attempts to collect bits and pieces from the past and the few traces left on earth of the anonymous and the unknown. And this, too, is bound up with my year of birth: 1945. Being born in 1945, after the cities had been destroyed and entire populations had disappeared, must have made me, like others of my age, more sensitive to the themes of memory and oblivion.

Unfortunately I do not think that the remembrance of things past can be done any longer with Marcel Proust's power and candidness. The society he was describing was still stable, a 19th century society. Proust's memory causes the past to reappear in all its detail, like a tableau vivant. Today, I get the sense that memory is much less sure of itself, engaged as it is in a constant struggle against amnesia and oblivion. This layer, this mass of oblivion that obscures everything, means we can only pick up fragments of the past, disconnected traces, fleeting and almost ungraspable human destinies.

Yet it has to be the vocation of the novelist, when faced with this large blank page of oblivion, to make a few faded words visible again, like lost icebergs adrift on the surface of the ocean.


The work of a novelist must travel in the same direction. His imagination, far from distorting reality, must get to the bottom of it, revealing this reality to itself, using the power of infrared and ultraviolet to detect what is hidden behind appearances. I could almost believe that the novelist, at his best, is a kind of clairvoyant or even visionary. He is also a seismograph, standing by to pick up barely perceptible movements.