Excerpt: 'The Madeleine Project: Uncovering a Parisian Life' by Clara Beaudoux, translated by Alison Anderson


Her name was Madeleine, and she would have been one hundred years old in 2015. My name is Clara, and I’m thirty-one.

We never knew one another, and yet we are sharing the same apartment, or at any rate have shared it, although at different times. Madeleine lived there for twenty years. She died one year before I moved in, and in the meantime the apartment had been completely renovated. The cellar storage room that came with the apartment had been left in its original state, an interstice preserved from oblivion. Once I’d sawn through the padlock I could see it had been left very tidy, with every-thing packed away in cardboard boxes—Madeleine’s life, objects, photographs, letters.

For several days last November I immersed myself in it all, and I decided to make an inventory of storage room No. 16 over Twitter, to lose myself in this fascinating puzzle of memories, to migrate from little boxes to suitcases full of documents, to allow her life and mine to mingle for a brief period.

Over two “seasons,” thousands of Twitter followers were drawn to my reporting as I recorded, in missives of 140 characters or less, the material that has now been drawn together in this book. I was in search not of lost time but of a time that had been lived, of fragments of memory marked by History. Was the purpose to combat forgetting? And furthermore, why insist on printing all these tweets, committing the immaterial to paper? Was it to preserve the memory of your memory, Madeleine? To keep a trace? But what will remain of the two of us? For over two years I’ve been wanting to tell this story. So now I will try to do it, here.

Excerpted from The Madeleine Project: Uncovering a Parisian Lifeby Clara Beaudoux, translated by Alison Anderson. Published by New Vessel Press in 2017. Republished here with permission of the authors and publishers.