Books by Marguerite Duras

The daughter of French schoolteachers, Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) was born in Vietnam. At age 17 she moved to France where she studied law and politics. She is the author of a great many novels, plays, films, and short narratives, including her best-sel

ME & OTHER WRITING by Marguerite Duras
Released: Oct. 1, 2019

"A luminous, erudite exploration of self and art marred by too many outlandish turns."
Autobiographical pieces published from 1957 to 1988 from the late French filmmaker and experimental writer (The Lover, etc.). Read full book review >
ABAHN SABANA DAVID by Marguerite Duras
Released: June 7, 2016

"Despite some clunky political commentary, a gripping meditation on the nature of fear, silence, and survival."
In English for the first time, a 1970 French novel from prolific experimentalist Duras (The Lover, 1984, etc.) Read full book review >
L'AMOUR by Marguerite Duras
Released: July 16, 2013

"The novel doesn't work well as a stand-alone. And reading the prequel is no guarantee that the reader will get it."
Duras' novel, published in French in 1971, debuts in its English translation (Emily L., 1987, etc.). Read full book review >
WRITING by Marguerite Duras
Released: May 30, 1998

In this very slender volume, Duras shares with us the writer's preoccupations with the distance between life and writing, and the contradiction between writing and silence. Winner of the 1984 Prix Goncourt for her novel The Lover, Duras died in 1996. She is without a doubt one of this century's great literary figures. But that haunting quality, the characteristically slow and deliberate language of her novels, translates less well when her subject is a kind of confessional of her life and work. The five short chapters that make up Writing circle around Duras's way into and out of the world. Her bare prose casts that same silence she considers fundamental to any writer: It is —the price one pays for having dared go out and scream." At this point, one chooses to either get lost in her fantasy or bow out, because much of Duras's prose begs the point with characteristic vagueness. Whether sitting alone considering the death of a fly, or trying to capture the entire life of a young pilot in the moment of his death, Duras is convinced that the "death of that fly has become this displacement of literature" and that writing it "renders it inaccessible." What remains is the nakedness of writing itself, and Duras hones this point into the ground. Strangely, the most poignant image of the creative act according to Duras comes in her final chapter, "The Painting Exhibition," where she describes the painter at work. "We leave him to his misfortune, to that infernal obligation that outstrips any commentary, any metaphor . . . to his own story . . . struggling in the continent of silence." Duras's theory of the written word would rob her life's work of the magic she has so masterfully created over a lifetime. Rereading The Lover might be the only antidote to so much discomfort. Read full book review >
YANN ANDRÉA STEINER by Marguerite Duras
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A slim memoir of a revitalizing love affair, overwhelmed by intellectual overkill. Ill, drinking too much, and unable to write, noted French author Duras was spending her time holed up in her apartment on the French coast until a chance correspondence with Yann Andrea Steiner, 36 years younger than herself, turned into a restorative affair when the young man visited her in the summer of 1980. Here- -recalling elliptically the details of their meetings, their living together, and their conversations, and creating a long fable that encompasses many of her favorite themes, including the Holocaust, the anarchy of passion, and the tragedies of childhood—Duras expresses gratitude for Steiner's restoring her health and her art, for being ``the voice of my life.'' The fable—which forms the major part of the text—was inspired by watching a group of children and their camp counselors on the beach, as well as by Steiner's inquiries about Theodora Kats, inspiration for a book that Duras had abandoned writing ``after thinking for years [that she] could write it.'' The mystery of Kats—a woman dressed all in white who was seen watching at a station as trains rolled by on their way to the concentration camps, and who may have been shot by the Germans or may have escaped to Switzerland—shadows Duras's fable. That fable itself concerns a six-year-old boy playing on the beach and in love with his counselor, who tells him stories of a mysterious fountain that must die. The fable is fraught with symbols, weighty messages, and an arch pretentiousness that ultimately renders it banal rather than significant. Thin, despite all the heavy stuffing. For die-hard Duras fans only. Read full book review >
SUMMER RAIN by Marguerite Duras
Released: May 1, 1992

Duras, in an afterword, explains that this present book was written as a kind of appendage to and reworking of a movie she'd made, The Children. Short and pregnant with silence, as Duras's work tends to be, it's the story of an immigrant Italian welfare- family living in the Paris suburb of Vitry—a poor and illiterate family whose purity of heart squeezes up a prodigy, the oldest son, Ernesto. Ernesto, like all the other kids of the family, is unschooled—but all of a sudden he's begun to teach himself to read. When he does try school, he leaves after ten days because of the teacher's understandably confounded refusal to teach him ``what he already knows.'' This gnomic utterance is the backbone of the book, which proceeds in mostly screenplayish dialogue—and quickly becomes a one-note tune: a political/mystical argument for innate knowledge over modernity. The immigrant family is a unit of natural poetry against which all the conventions of contemporary life are as nothing (a newish French left shibboleth). There is, too, for Duras's fans, a small incest theme—without which, since the popular The Lover (1985), Duras rarely leaves home. Slight and silly and adrip with intellectual attitude. Read full book review >
EMILY L. by Marguerite Duras
Released: May 15, 1989

Duras (The Lover; The War, etc.) here offers a wise, graceful book, at once modern in its self-consciousness and classic in its clarity. In the French port town of Quillebeuf, a French couple (the narrator, who is a writer, and her lover) notice a British yachtsman and his wife, both hard drinkers with "deliberate immobility." The narrator, who decides to write "our story," begins to invent the British couple from bits of overheard conversation and observation at the same time that she discourses to her lover on the act of writing ("Some stories are elusive. They're made up of a series of situations without any link between them"). At first, she merely observes the British couple strike up an acquaintance with the woman who is manager of the bar and listens to the yachtman's oblique description of their travels, all the while sharing analysis and speculation with her lover. Then, however, the writer invents a narrative: the wife married beneath her, lost a girl in childbirth, wrote a sequence of beautiful poems her husband couldn't understand, and settled finally for travel—no happiness, no writing. As for the yachtsman, "it was natural that he should try to find a meaning for his own life in terms of her." Without the woman's knowledge, her father publishes the poems, which become famous. She longs for her house on the Isle of Wight and remembers a caretaker who knew her poems and cherished her soul, but "all they have to do now is solve the problem of death." The translation is rendered in a spare, lean prose, sparse yet limpid, At times the pontifications about writing can become self-congratulatory and tiresome, but mostly this is a fascinating account of those lines of force that both attach us to and separate us from others. Read full book review >