Dora Bruder

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had left behind a box of ampoules
containing morphine that he eked out, drop by drop. I never
discovered her name.
    He died from tetanus on 13 December 1943, at Broussais
Hospital, aged thirty-six. Before the war, he had published two
collections of poems; one of these books was entitled La Vie , l’Amour , la Mort , le Vide et le Vent .
    So many friends whom I never knew disappeared in 1945, the
year I was born.
    As a child, in the apartment at 15 Quai de Conti where my
father had lived since 1942—the same apartment that
Maurice Sachs 2 had rented the year before—my room overlooked
the courtyard. Maurice Sachs relates that he lent these rooms
to somebody called Albert, nicknamed “le Zébu.” 3 And that
he in turn had filled them with “young actors who dreamed
of forming a company of their own, and with adolescents who
were beginning to write.” This “Zébu,” Albert Schaky, had the
same first name as my father and, like him, came from a
family of Italian Jews in Salonika. And like me at the same age
exactly thirty years later, he published his first novel with
Gallimard, in 1938, at the age of twenty-one, under the name
François Vernet. He later joined the Resistance. The Germans
arrested him. On the wall of Cell 218, Fresnes, second
division, he wrote: “Zébu arrested 10.2.44. Three months on bread
and water, interrogated 9–28 May, visited by doctor 8 June,
two days after Allied landing.”
    He was deported from Compiègne camp on the transport
of 2 July 1944 and died in Dachau in March 1945.
    Thus, in the apartment where Sachs had carried on his gold
trafficking and where, later on, under a false name, my father
had hidden, Zébu had occupied my childhood bedroom. Just
before I was born, he and others like him had taken all the
punishments meted out to them in order that we should
suffer no more than pinpricks. I had already worked this out at
the age of eighteen while on that journey with my father in
the police van, a journey that was a harmless repetition, a
parody, of other such journeys—in the same police vans and to
the same police stations—but from which nobody had ever
returned home, on foot, as I had on that occasion.
    I remember, aged twenty-three, late one afternoon on 31
December when, like today, it had grown dark very early, going
to see Dr. Ferdière. This man showed me the greatest
kindness at a period of my life that, for me, was full of anguish and
uncertainty. I vaguely knew that he had admitted Antonin
Artaud to the psychiatric hospital at Rodez and had done his best
to treat him. 4 But I remember that particular evening for a
striking coincidence: I had taken Dr. Ferdière a copy of my
first book, La Place de l’Étoile , the title of which surprised him.
He fetched a slim, gray volume from his library to show me: La Place de l’Étoile by Robert Desnos, 5 whose friend he was.
Dr. Ferdière had had it published himself, in Rodez, a few
months after Desnos’s death in the camp at Terezin in 1945,
the year I was born. I had no idea that Desnos had written a
book called La Place de l’Étoile . Quite unwittingly, I had stolen
his title from him.
    1. Allusion to a report by the Police des Moeurs, or Vice Squad.
    2. Writer and aesthete, Sachs describes his life as a black marketeer during the
Occupation in La Chasse à courre .
    3. A zébu is a domestic camel with a muscular hump and sharp
    4. Artaud—actor, poet, influential cineaste, and theatrical pioneer—remained in
Rodez asylum, in the Free Zone, until 1946; he died in 1948.
    5. Leading figure in Paris artistic circles, later active in the

    T WO MONTHS AGO, IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE YIVO INSTITUTE in New York, a friend of mine found the following
note among the documentation relating to the former Union
Générale des Israélites de France, 1 a body founded under

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