Book picks similar to
Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano


fiction
france
historical-fiction
non-fiction

Fatelessness


Imre Kertész - 1975
    He does not understand the reason for his fate. He doesn’t particularly think of himself as Jewish. And his fellow prisoners, who decry his lack of Yiddish, keep telling him, “You are no Jew.” In the lowest circle of the Holocaust, Georg remains an outsider.The genius of Imre Kertesz’s unblinking novel lies in its refusal to mitigate the strangeness of its events, not least of which is Georg’s dogmatic insistence on making sense of what he witnesses–or pretending that what he witnesses makes sense. Haunting, evocative, and all the more horrifying for its rigorous avoidance of sentiment, Fatelessness is a masterpiece in the traditions of Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Tadeusz Borowski.

The Long Voyage


Jorge Semprún - 1963
    During the seemingly endless journey, he has conversations that range from his childhood to speculations about the death camps. When at last the fantastic, Wagnerian gates to Buchenwald come into sight, the young Spaniard is left alone to face the camp.

The Passenger


Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
    Jewish shops have been ransacked and looted, synagogues destroyed. As storm troopers pound on his door, Otto Silbermann, a respected businessman who fought for Germany in the Great War, is forced to sneak out the back of his own home. Turned away from establishments he had long patronized, and fearful of being exposed as a Jew despite his Aryan looks, he boards a train.And then another. And another . . . until his flight becomes a frantic odyssey across Germany, as he searches first for information, then for help, and finally for escape. His travels bring him face-to-face with waiters and conductors, officials and fellow outcasts, seductive women and vicious thieves, a few of whom disapprove of the regime while the rest embrace it wholeheartedly.Clinging to his existence as it was just days before, Silbermann refuses to believe what is happening even as he is beset by opportunists, betrayed by associates, and bereft of family, friends, and fortune. As his world collapses around him, he is forced to concede that his nightmare is all too real.Twenty-three-year-old Ulrich Boschwitz wrote The Passenger at breakneck speed in 1938, fresh in the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, and his prose flies at the same pace. Taut, immediate, infused with acerbic Kafkaesque humor, The Passenger is an indelible portrait of a man and a society careening out of control.

Suite Française


Irène Némirovsky - 2004
    But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France—where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis—she'd begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of a human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic, the handwritten manuscripts of which were hidden in a suitcase that her daughters would take with them into hiding and eventually into freedom. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Némirovsky's literary masterpiece The first part, "A Storm in June," opens in the chaos of the massive 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion during which several families and individuals are thrown together under circumstances beyond their control. They share nothing but the harsh demands of survival—some trying to maintain lives of privilege, others struggling simply to preserve their lives—but soon, all together, they will be forced to face the awful exigencies of physical and emotional displacement, and the annihilation of the world they know. In the second part, "Dolce," we enter the increasingly complex life of a German-occupied provincial village. Coexisting uneasily with the soldiers billeted among them, the villagers—from aristocrats to shopkeepers to peasants—cope as best they can. Some choose resistance, others collaboration, and as their community is transformed by these acts, the lives of these these men and women reveal nothing less than the very essence of humanity.Suite Française is a singularly piercing evocation—at once subtle and severe, deeply compassionate, and fiercely ironic—of life and death in occupied France, and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.

Promise at Dawn


Romain Gary - 1960
    Alone and poor, she fights fiercely to give her son the very best. Gary chronicles his childhood with her in Russia, Poland, and on the French Riviera. And he recounts his adventurous life as a young man fighting for France in the Second World War. But above all, he tells the story of the love for his mother that was his very life, their secret and private planet, their wonderland "born out of a mother's murmur into a child's ear, a promise whispered at dawn of future triumphs and greatness, of justice and love." A romantic, thrilling memoir that has become a French classic.

W, or the Memory of Childhood


Georges Perec - 1975
    Combining inventive fiction and autobiography in a quite unprecedented way, Georges Perec leads the reader inexorably towards the horror that lies at the origin of the post-World War Two world, and at the crux of his own identity.

The War


Marguerite Duras - 1985
    Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the liberation, this extraordinary diary by the author of The Lover is "a haunting portrait of a time and place" (New York Times).Written in 1944, and first published in 1985, Duras's riveting account of life in Paris during the Nazi occupation and the first few months of liberation depicts the harrowing realities of World War II-era France "with a rich conviction enhanced by [a] spare, almost arid, technique" (Julian Barnes, The Washington Post Book World). Duras, by then married and part of a French resistance network headed by François Mitterand, tells of nursing her starving husband back to health after his return from Bergen-Belsen, interrogating a suspected collaborator, and playing a game of cat and mouse with a Gestapo officer who was attracted to her. The result is "more than one woman's diary...[it is] a haunting portrait of a time and a place and also a state of mind" (The New York Times).

Patterns of Childhood


Christa Wolf - 1976
    This novel is a testament of what seemed at the time a fairly ordinary childhood, in the bosom of a normal Nazi family in Landsberg.Returning to her native town in East Germany forty years later, accompanied by her inquisitive and sometimes demanding daughter, Christa Wolf attempts to recapture her past and to clarify memories of growing up in Nazi Germany

Austerlitz


W.G. Sebald - 2001
    A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, one Jacques Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist minister and his wife who raise him. When he is a much older man, the fleeting memories return to him, and obeying an instinct he only dimly understands, he follows their trail back to the world he left behind a half century before. There, faced with the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe, he struggles to rescue his heritage from oblivion.

Brodeck


Philippe Claudel - 2007
    Readers of J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader and Kafka will be captivated by Brodeck.Forced into a brutal concentration camp during a great war, Brodeck returns to his village at the war’s end and takes up his old job of writing reports for a governmental bureau. One day a stranger comes to live in the village. His odd manner and habits arouse suspicions: His speech is formal, he takes long, solitary walks, and although he is unfailingly friendly and polite, he reveals nothing about himself. When the stranger produces drawings of the village and its inhabitants that are both unflattering and insightful, the villagers murder him. The authorities who witnessed the killing tell Brodeck to write a report that is essentially a whitewash of the incident. As Brodeck writes the official account, he sets down his version of the truth in a separate, parallel narrative. In measured, evocative prose, he weaves into the story of the stranger his own painful history and the dark secrets the villagers have fiercely kept hidden.

Min Far


Annie Ernaux - 1983
    This will be an accessible and exciting addition to French studies courses.

The Invention of Curried Sausage


Uwe Timm - 1993
    Uwe Timm has heard claims that currywurst first appeared in Berlin in the 1950s, but he seems to recall having eaten it much earlier, as a boy in his native Hamburg, at a stand owned and operated by Lena Brücker. He decides to check it out. Although the discovery of curried sausage is eventually explained, it is its prehistory - about how Lena Brücker met, seduced and held captive a German deserter in Hamburg, in April, 1945, just before the war's end - that is the tastiest part. Timm draws gorgeous details from Lena's fine-grained recollections, and the pleasure these provide her and the reader supply the tale's real charm.

Under Fire


Henri Barbusse - 1916
    For the group of ordinary men in the French Sixth Battalion, thrown together from all over France and longing for home, war is simply a matter of survival, lightened only by the arrival of their rations or a glimpse of a pretty girl or a brief reprieve in the hospital. Reminiscent of classics like Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Under Fire (originally published in French as La Feu) vividly evokes life in the trenches: the mud, stench, and monotony of waiting while constantly fearing for one's life in an infernal and seemingly eternal battlefield.For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Dreams of My Russian Summers


Andreï Makine - 1995
    Every summer he visits his grandmother in a dusty village overlooking the vast steppes. Here, during the warm evenings, they sit on Charlotte's narrow, flower-covered bacony and listen to tales from another time, another place: Paris at the turn of the century. She who used to see Proust playing tennis in Neuilly captivates the children with stories of Tsar Nicholas's visit to Paris in 1896, of the great Paris flood of 1910, of the death of French president Felix Faure in the arms of his mistress. But from Charlotte the boy also learns of a Russia he has never known, of famine and misery, of brutal injustice, of the hopeless chaos of war. He follows her as she travels by foot from Moscow half the way to Siberia; suffers with her as she tells of her husband - his grandfather - a victim of Stalin's purges; shudders as she describes her own capture by bandits, who brutalize her and left her for dead. Could all this pain and suffering really have happened to his gentle, beloved Charlotte? Mesmerized, the boy weaves Charlotte's stories into his own secret universe of memory and dream. Yet, despite all the deprivations and injustices of the Soviet world, he like many Russians still feels a strong affinity with and "an indestructible love" for his homeland.

A Very Long Engagement


Sébastien Japrisot - 1991
    Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a relentless quest to find out whether her fiancé, officially "killed in the line of duty," might still be alive. Tipped off by a letter from a dying soldier, the shrewd, sardonic, and wonderfully imaginative Mathilde scours the country for information about the men. As she carries her search to its end, an elaborate web of deception and coincidence emerges, and Mathilde comes to an understanding of the horrors, and the acts of kindness, brought about by war.A runaway bestseller in France and the winner of the 1991 Prix Interallié, this astonishing novel is many things at once: an absorbing mystery, a playful study of the different ways one story can be told, a moving and incisive portrait of life in France during and after the First World War, and a love story of transforming power and beauty.