OUTSIDE: Selected Writings by Marguerite Duras

OUTSIDE: Selected Writings

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Essays and interviews by France's ancestor of the Literary New Wave, now a phenomenally best-selling novelist as well (The Lover). These slight pieces do not travel well. Duras quivers with schoolgirl-type crushes during celeb puff interviews with a series of famous women: Leontyne Price, Margot Fonteyn, Melina Mercouri, and others. In these pieces, she seems to pry rather deeper into private matters than the stars would like. The slightly rude flavor of these fan pieces is not helped by the occasionally clumsy translation, which Englishes the French word monstre as ""monster,"" creating a comic newspaper headline that refers to Leontyne Price as a ""Sublime Black Monster."" The translator also chooses to render the French ""on"" as ""we,"" giving the impression that Duras' trembly emotions are shared by a regiment: ""We tried to overcome our timidity."" Duras' gushing does not hide the fact that these are standard French interviews of the ""quietes vous"" variety, which might as well have appeared in Paris-Match. Talking to the great actress Madeleine Renaud, Duras says she always asked the question, ""how do you do it?,"" but now she doesn't ask it any more. Sure enough, two pages later, she asks it again. On more serious subjects, Duras is even less impressive. She admirably defends the downtrodden Algerians in France, but a crude juxtaposition of an Algerian in Paris with memoirs of a Jewish survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto seems both crass and meaningless. Another extended piece deals with a much-jailed criminal who berates the French prison system. Although this piece may have made a splash in France, to an uninvolved American, the interviewee seems a thoroughly nasty sort, deserving of whatever he got. Some of these articles retain their value by merely reproducing the opinions of their time (some date back to the 50's). But although all of them here drip with sincerity, most lack what makes up vivid journalism: objectivity, wit, and a bit of wisdom. Only hard-core Duras fans will want this book; other interested readers had best stick to her novels and films.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Beacon