The Madeleine Project

  

A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman’s attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion. Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era.

 

Download the Reading Group Guide here.

Download Madeleine’s Recipe Book, a delicious accompaniment to The Madeleine Project, here.

Excerpt from The Madeleine Project

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 everything

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.