Literary E-Tourism

Jul 3, 2016 |


English Edition 2014 Univ California

Being immobilised indoors has given me time to indulge in Literary E-Tourism.  I started reading Patrick Modiano’s novel, Dora Bruder and immediately his opening lines provide sufficient detail to see if he is using real facts and places.The novel opens with a brief newspaper item dated 31st December 1941; it was the period when Marshal Pétain was Chief of State in France. The first literary tourism question then is, can a copy of that evening newspaper, Paris-soir be found? I know that Gallica, which gives on-line access to scanned documents from the French National Library, the {BnF, will probably hold the edition mentioned in the novel. Actually, it was with genuine surprise and something of that same thrill of discovery you feel when you arrive at the exact spot mentioned in a novel that I found this:

Dora Bruder

News in Brief from p.3 of Paris-soir

There is the missing persons message for Dora Bruder on page 3 as Modiano’s novel says!  Take a look at the front page to check the date and there is a message from Pétain.  The stories draw you in to a snapshot of time at the end of 1941, enjoy the whole newspaper at:


Paris-soir front page 31 Dec 1941

Now for that exact spot!  I use the term much-loved by literary pilgrims, attributed to the poet Tennyson (1809-92). When on a visit to the Cobb in Lyme Regis, he exclaimed ‘Don’t talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell!’  For Tennyson his investment in the cultural capital of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion gave imaginative value to the location.  If Bourdieu had ever heard this story recounted, he would have thought it a perfect example of gratuitous place value!  By voicing his intellectual pleasure out loud to his friends Tennyson had created a toureme.   I did try to find the source of Tennyson’s famous words, supposed to be in an article by John Vaughan in Monthly Packet magazine of 1893 but without success.  Please add a Comment if you know where a copy or scan of this periodical is held.

Back to the Paris of Modiano’s imagination, now though, and my Literary e-Pilgrimage continues with the help of Google Maps.  Very quickly 41 boulevard Ornano comes into view, and thanks to Google’s images, the front entrance to the apartment block is easy to find.  A glimpse of sunshine in the leaves of the trees and the characteristic blue house numbers showing 41.  Down at street-level orange fruit beneath the awnings of a market stall.

All-in-all, a satisfying morning’s Literary e-Tourism, please share your Literary e-Tourism moments below

Posted in: Travels with Charlie in Search of French | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. A Post-Script to Literary E-Tourism
    Glance back up at the front cover of the US edition of Modiano’s novel. Can you see the street running diagonally through the background map? It is the rue Picpus. In that same edition of the evening newspaper with its link in the blog-post above, Paris-soir, please turn back a page to p.2 and zoom to the panel on the top-right. Signé Picpus. It is an instalment from a serialised novel by Georges Simenon with his famous detective, Maigret as the main character. What is the significance of Picpus for these two writers of mystery?