Dora Bruder

Free Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano

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Authors: Patrick Modiano
Tags: Biography
Like Friedo
Lampe, he died in Berlin in the spring of 1945, at the age of
thirty-three, during the final battles, in the carnage and
apocalypse of a universe where he had found himself by mistake,
wearing a uniform that had been imposed on him but was not
his by choice.
    And now, why is it that, among so many other writers, my
thoughts should turn to the poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte? He
too was struck, in the same period as the two previous
writers, as though the few must serve as lightning conductors in
order that the others may be spared.
    As it happens, our paths had crossed. When I was his age,
like him I lived in the southern suburbs of Paris: Boulevard
Brune, Rue d’Alésia, Hôtel Primavera, Rue de la
Voie-Verte  .  .  .  In
1938, he was still there, living near the Porte d’Orléans
with a German Jewish girl, Ruth Kronenberg. Then, in 1939,
still with her, he moved the short distance to the Plaisance
district, to a studio at 16 bis Rue Bardinet. The number of times
I have taken those streets, without even knowing that
Gilbert-Lecomte had been there before me  .  .  .  And in 1965, on the
Right Bank, in Montmartre, I would spend entire afternoons
in a corner café on the Square Caulaincourt and, unaware that
Gilbert-Lecomte had also stayed there thirty years earlier, in
a hotel off the Rue Caulaincourt: Montmartre 42–99  .  .  . 
    About this time, I came across a doctor called Jean
Puyaubert. I thought I had a shadow on my lung. To avoid
doing military service, I asked him for a certificate. He gave me
an appointment at a clinic where he worked in the Place
d’Alleray, and had me x-rayed: I had nothing on my lung, I
wanted an exemption, and it wasn’t as though there was a war
on. It was simply that the prospect of barracks life such as I
had already been leading in various boarding schools from the
ages of eleven to seventeen seemed to me unendurable.
    I don’t know what became of Dr. Jean Puyaubert. Decades
after I had been to see him, I learned that Roger
Gilbert-Lecomte had been one of his closest friends, and that the poet,
when my age, had asked him the same thing: for a medical
certificate confirming that he had had pleurisy—to exempt
him from military service.
    Roger Gilbert-Lecomte  .  .  .  He had dragged out his last
years in Paris, under the Occupation  .  .  .  In July 1942, his
friend, Ruth Kronenberg, was arrested in the Free Zone, on
her return from the seaside at Collioure. She was deported in
the transport of 11 September, a week before Dora Bruder. A
twenty-year-old from Cologne, she had come to Paris some
time in 1935 because of racial laws. She enjoyed poetry and
the theater. She learned to sew in order to make theatrical
costumes. It was no time before she met Roger Gilbert-Lecomte,
with other artists in Montparnasse  .  .  . 
    He continued to live alone in the studio in the Rue
Bardinet. Then a Mme Firmat, who had the café opposite, took
him in and looked after him. He was a shadow of his former
self. In autumn 1942, he undertook several exhausting
journeys across the suburbs to Bois-Colombes, where a Dr.
Bréavoine in the Rue des Aubépines gave him prescriptions that
allowed him to obtain a little heroin. His comings and goings
were noted. On 21 October 1942, he was arrested and
imprisoned in the Santé. There he remained, in the infirmary,
until 19 November. He was released with a summons to
appear in court a month later, charged with “having illegally
bought prohibited drugs in Paris, Colombes, Bois-Colombes,
Asnières, in 1942, and having in his possession heroin,
morphine, cocaine  .  .  . ”
    For a while, in early 1943, he was in a clinic at Épernay, then
Mme Firmat put him up in a room above her café. A girl to
whom he had lent the studio in the Rue Bardinet during his
stay at the clinic, a student,

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