The writer and French writer Joseph Joffo died Thursday at the age of 87 years, following a long illness, has announced a close of the writer to La Libre Belgique . Mainly known for his autobiographical A bag of marbles , written in 1973, it had been crowned by the French Academy the following year.

In 2017, on the evening of the premiere of the Bag of marbles, by Christian Duguay, with Patrick Bruel and Elsa Zylberstein, the two brothers Joffo, 85 and 87 years, were there, united as two fingers of the hand. Two old gentlemen, beautiful faces, the smile. But the elder, Maurice, was subtly recessed, leaving Joseph to play the bateleurs at the microphone.

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forty years ago, the younger brother told their story, that of two young jewish boys in leakage between 1941 and 1944, in a book to the hugely successful (20 million copies). We never get tired of reading the Bag of marbles, version dramatic of the Tour de France of two children. It shows, once again, that the reality has exceeded the fiction during the period of the Occupation.

epic, scarcely believable

The parents Joffo, come from Russia. Installed in France, the country of which the jews then said that it was “happy like God”, they hold a salon at 86, rue Caulaincourt, Paris. The Joffo have seven children, three girls and four boys. Their fate rocking with the political anti-jewish Vichy.

While Joseph exchanging his yellow star, at the request of a friend, against a bag of marbles, the parents – whose families have experienced the pogroms – to understand that he must flee. They send Maurice, 12, and Joseph, 10 years old, to join their two older brothers in the free zone. Without papers, the children begin a long journey of more than two years. In 1943, while France was occupied, they are capture by the Gestapo and are submitted during a month to the issue in Excelsior hotel Nice. Eventually, they would end the war hidden in Rumilly, which plays out a condensed version of French history.

“Joffo had suffered a lot of rejection, but I very much believed in this story full of humour”

Jean-Claude Lattès

Maurice works in a restaurant held by the resistance fighters, while Joseph book of logs for the account of a pétainiste well known. “I do not want. The Marshal, at the beginning, all the world believed in”, says there seventy years later. Between 1941 and 1944, they crossed the ugliness of man, but also its size: the two children are first saved by a priest, and then by a doctor. They have their exit from the Excelsior to the false certificates of baptism issued by a priest in nice. “No luck, admits Joffo, which seems to be an eternal optimist, we would not be here.” Without their instinct of survival, not more.

After the war, having broken with the school and learned to bend with life, Joseph dreamed of being a boxer. But the titi parisian eventually take over the business family, his father deported, and murdered in 1943. Maurice did the same and the Whole of Paris will do her hair in the living room of the place Victor-Hugo. The two small jewish Caulaincourt had succeeded well, and the story could have stopped there. But in 1973, while he is bed ridden because of a fracture, Joseph records his story in a school notebook. Jean-Claude Lattès, to which we pass the manuscript written with full and unbound, will take the risk of publishing for the novice. “Joffo had suffered a lot of rejection, but I very much believed in this story full of humor. I was sure the kids would identify with these two chenapans who manage to outwit evil”, tells the editor. Maurice, with his banter, puts it yet in custody: “You’re going to lose your panties with this book!” Lattès ask the writer Claude Klotz, alias Patrick Cauvin, exercise the writing of the Bag of marbles.

“We, the elders, we are the memory of the world”

Joseph Joffo

success is not immediate, in spite of an article by Joseph Kessel – excuse me a bit! – in It . “Literary critics have is pouting in front of what they considered to be the memories of a hairdresser”, remembers Lattes. The general public does not have this snobbery: the book is way out in the head of sales, and then into the school curriculum. It will be translated into 18 languages. Joffo is propelled in the light, the guarantor of the authenticity of this epic tale barely believable. He went on tour, becomes a great witness to the Occupation, with an energy and limitless patience. Inevitably, the pupils asked him: “How would your parents have let you go alone in the night?” Now the father of three children, he answers that when one has their back to the wall, we know how to do what it takes to save his family.

The black years of the Occupation

Until the end of his days, Joseph Joffo did not want to renounce to its role of witness, as much by pleasure as by duty. Joseph, who has never ceased to write with and without the aid of a negro, is a storyteller born. Two schools bear his name, an immense source of pride for the one who does the certif. “We, the elders, we are the memory of the world”, he explained with fear. He felt sure that France is changing, that it is in the process of reconnecting with a form of anti-semitism. It is nothing compared to the dark years of the Occupation, of course. But it was reported that some colleges of Seine-Saint-Denis no longer want to hear talk about the ball Bag and the Holocaust. Jewish French par excellence, Joffo has never wanted to give up. The war is not yet finished, but the fighter Joffo is no longer there.