The Search Warrant (Harvill Press) is the English title given to Dora Bruder, Patrick Modiano’s account of his attempt to find out what happened to a fifteen-year-old girl who ran away from school in Paris on a winter night in 1941. His quest begins some thirty years later, when he happens upon the missing persons notice placed by the girl’s parents in a Paris newspaper a few days after her disappearance. Eventually, after many years of desultory investigation, he finds her name in a list of Jews deported to Auschwitz in September of 1942, but by this time he has formed a connection with her that embraces all the great heaviness of lost worlds and people.
The clues he unearths are maddeningly few: addresses, weather reports, school registers, lists of prisoners and detainees, otherwise empty markers that he marshals, as he says, “in order not to lose all touch with Dora.” At one point he simply lists the changing weather conditions during the winter of 1941 and early spring of 1942, the months of Dora’s disappearance; it is a list that becomes almost unbearably painful to read, and in the end we too feel ourselves touching Dora Bruder.
This beautifully written book is both a journey and an arrival.