Julia stops by the rue de Bretagne, the location of the garage in which Sarah and her family were held before being moved to the Vélodrome. Looking at the place where Sarah’s journey began, Julia finds herself wondering where this journey ended. She also reflects on her visit to the former Drancy internment camp with Guillaume earlier that morning, where she was unnerved by both the yellow stars she saw on display and the fact that the former camp is now filled with apartment buildings—a neighborhood whose name translates as “City of the Mute.”
Once again, the novel emphasizes the uncanny ability of physical places and objects to act as silent witnesses to historical events. With her description of the “City of the Mute,” de Rosnay seems to be taking aim at French citizens who are both ignorant and uncurious about the history of their homes. Julia’s discomfort at seeing the yellow stars also speaks to the way that objects such as the stars and Sarah’s key are imbued with histories of their own.
In the afternoon, Julia meets Bamber so they can visit Beaune-la-Rolande together. Bamber asks if Julia is okay and she realizes she must look terrible, having stayed up all night talking to Bertrand. In an “awful, broken voice [she] did not recognize,” Bertrand had given Julia an ultimatum: if she decides to keep her pregnancy, their marriage will end. Julia obliquely tells Bamber she had “a hell of a night,” to which he responds with compassion and support. On the drive to Beaune-la-Rolande, Julia thinks about calling her sister, Charla, to tell her about her pregnancy.
Julia’s continued reluctance to discuss the issues in her marriage shows that even she is not immune to the tendency to be silent and secretive about difficult subjects. This chapter, by explaining Bertrand’s ultimatum, also raises the stakes of Julia’s decision to keep or terminate her pregnancy.
Julia and Bamber arrive in Beaune-la-Rolande and tour the town and train station, which has been converted into a daycare center. The woman working at the center blithely says that she is “too young” to know anything about the history of her workplace, despite the fact that Julia has just noticed a plaque above the door of the center commemorating those held prisoner at Beaune-la-Rolande.
De Rosnay is explicitly satirizing the young generation of French people who assume that the excuse of being “too young” to remember the Second World War is sufficient to excuse their profound ignorance and disinterest in that history. This passage shows that putting up memorial plaques is not a sufficient way for a country to memorialize an event as tragic and massive as the Holocaust. Rather, this episode suggests, a cultural shift is required.