The Search Warrant was my first Modiano. I found the book on the ‘New Arrival’ display on a bookstore I often visit. Cramped between John Green’s and Rainbow Rowell’s books, Patrick Modiano’s The Search Warrant seemed out of place. And indeed, it was.
This book was first published in 1997 as Dora Bruder. How did a book published almost two decades ago got its place among the newcomers? Because it has ‘Winner of the Nobel Prize 2014 in Literature’ on the cover.
The author in the story found a notice of a missing girl in an issue of Paris Soir. The girl, is a 15 year old Jewish named Dora Bruder who ran away from a convent where her parents put her during an interim occupation by Nazi in 1940. The year is 1996 and the author determinately tracked down this girl, to know what happened to her, why she ran away, was she caught and sent to the camp? This was an impossible task but I like what he wrote about being patient
“It took me four years to discover her exact date of birth: 25 February 1926. And a further two years to find out her place of birth: Paris, 12th arrondissement. But I am a patient man. I can wait for hours in the rain.”
Reading his story is like time travelling. Buildings, streets, shops and people who had been there when Dora was alive. Somehow, it felt like chasing a ghost in an endless walk. Naturally, when we think about someone else’s past, our own past hunts us down. The author too has to deal with his own family history.
“Perhaps it was one of those mild, sunny winter days when you have a feeling of holiday and eternity-the illusory feeling that the course of time is suspended, and that you need only slip through this breach to escape the trap that is closing around you.”
No, I don’t have a past that complicated to reflect to when I read his journey in finding Dora Bruder. However, I like the way he traced back history, to reveal what has been erased, by being patient. I don’t think I have that kind of persistance to solve a case. Or, worse, I would just ignore the advertisement altogether.
The ability of being patient is a rare skill nowadays, with everything just a click away, we are told that waiting and being patient while doing so, is a waste of time. We don’t queue anymore, we don’t go to library to find resources anymore, yet we are too busy telling the world about ourselves. We become very impatient human being, with everything around us busy screaming their ideas and opinions.
The Search Warrant is a short, but beautiful and sad story. One thing that it makes me do is try to wake up early and take a morning walk with my dog. Maybe it’s not much, but it’s necessary for us to walk and as we walk we take a look around and think: this won’t last.