The Bureau for the Clarification of Fates

Le bureau d'éclaircissement des destins

Gaëlle Nohant

proofs in French

Sometimes when you are looking for the dead, you find the living.

This gripping novel is set at the heart of The International Tracing Service – an organisation that was created at the end of the Second World War to investigate Nazi crimes, search for missing people, and discover what became of them.

In 1990, Irène joins the team. Meticulous and conscientious, she quickly becomes obsessed with her work – at the cost of her personal life. Years later, she is entrusted with returning thousands of confiscated objects, recovered from the liberated camps.

Irène pieces together the identity of each object’s rightful owner, in order to give the descendants of the victims something by which to remember their lost relatives. A faded cloth doll, a medallion, an embroidered handkerchief… every object contains its secrets. Over the course of her investigations, Irène reconstructs what happened to the deceased from the traces they left behind, and in so doing she glimpses humanity – at its worst, but also, its best.

Weaving together the trajectories of these individual lives with the collective memory of Europe, this devastatingly beautiful novel is suffused with wisdom and compassion.