Porte de Clignancourt in Joseph Joffo’s Un sac de billes (A Bag of Marbles)

Le marché aux puces, Porte de Clignancourt by Luigi Loir. PHOTO CREDIT: Mu. This photo is in the public domain.

“’All done with your homework?’ Papa looked at us too, but we lit out of there while he was making change at the register. Then our fun started. Porte Clignancourt 1941. The neighborhood was a paradise for kids.”

“Others have also been caught over there; the daylight glints on helmets and the bolts of rifles.
I realize then that the priest’s hand is resting on my shoulder, that it has always been there—from the very beginning.
Slowly, we go back to our seats. The train is silent now; the Germans are blocking the exits.
The words came to my lips all by themselves.
‘Father, we don’t have any papers.’
He looks at me and a smile stretches his lips for the first time since Paris. He bends down, and when he whispers I can hardly understand.
‘If you go around looking so frightened, the Germans are going to notice without your telling them. Get close to me.’”1

Un sac de billes (A Bag of Marbles [1973]) follows Joseph Joffo’s escape from Nazi occupied Paris to the ‘Free Zone’ in southern France. This autobiographical novel brings a unique voice to the table of Holocaust survivors. Instead of reflecting upon the past he wrote the story as if the events were

occurring in a contemporary space, giving the story immediacy and a powerful presence. As the reader tracks

Joseph’s journey by train, by ferry, and on foot, the boy shifts dramatically: he begins as a child prone

to crying over a lost marble and quickly transitions to a

young adult whose childhood ended far too soon.

800px-Vichy_France_Map_CC3-0 by Rostislav Botev Photo Credit: Rostislav Botev. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The Porte de Clignancourt served as Joseph’s early home. Located in the northern portion of Paris, France, the Clignancourt is currently recognized as the world’s largest flea market and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The ‘porte’ (gate) was adopted when the Clignancourt was annexed in 1860, as a wall titled the ‘Thiers’ had been built to defend Paris in the 1800s. The wall no longer exists, but now the Clignancourt serves as the metaphoric gateway into the heart viagra cialis pas cher of the city.

After the war, Joseph returned home to France. Over thirty years following the events of his past he published A Bag of Marbles in 1973. Soon thereafter, the novel was adapted into film format by French writer and director Jacques Doillon. In 2013, Vincent and Kris Bailly (under authorial supervision) converted the already well-received and esteemed book into a graphic novel aimed at reaching an audience closer in age to Joseph when he escaped.

Read more about Joseph Joffo on Wikipedia. Find A Bag of Marbles at a local library, an independent bookstore, or on Amazon.


1 Joffo, Joseph. Un Sac De Billes. Paris: JC Lattès, 2003. Print.

Have an idea for a Daily Spot?  Send us an email.