DURAS by Alain Vircondelet

DURAS

A Biography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This biography, a welcome complement to Marguerite Duras's prolific literary career, is compromised by Vircondelet's stylistic copying of his subject's oblique technique. Vircondelet's project is made clear from an epigraph quoting Duras: ``I would like to see someone write about me the way I write. Such a book would include everything at once.'' Much of Duras's work is clearly autobiographical, frequently revisiting the events of an exotic and dynamic life. In various writings she has retold the focal events of her life, most famously of growing up in Indochina, where she took a wealthy Chinese lover at the age of 15 (inspiring The Sea Wall and The Lover). During WW II, she joined the Paris Resistance with her husband (who, in the course of their activities, would be sent to Dachau). Later she joined and fell out with the Communist Party. Vircondelet is best at chronicling the first half of Duras's life and at recounting these charged events in light of her later writings. Throughout her singular career, Duras's literary work and political activities coincided with new movements without truly belonging to them--the New Wave in film (Hiroshima Mon Amour), the nouveau roman in literature, and leftist politics from radical activities in the 1950s to the turmoil of May 1968 and the women's movement. A familiar and controversial public figure in France, Duras receives full partisan support from Vircondelet, though he gives equal time to her critics. The biographer addresses Duras's complicated relationships with her mother and brothers, and her perplexing yet intimate relationship with a much younger homosexual man. However, he always follows Duras's versions of her personal life and thus adds little original interpretation of her character. Vircondelet, who has also written biographies of Huysmans and Pascal, knows Duras's work and reads it well. But he's too close to her. His epigonic biography too often reads like pretentious ghostwriting. (37 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1994
ISBN: 1-56478-065-1
Page count: 378pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994