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.).

This wide-ranging collection opens with a provocative, messy essay. It begins in classic Duras style with existential statements about the artist’s life—“You compete with God,” and “The unknown in my life is my written life. I will die without knowing this unknown.” But without segue Duras is suddenly commenting on the enduring horror of the Holocaust, dropping statements like, “Those who say that the camps are a recognized, assimilated phenomenon are the new anti-Semites.” The other pieces are generally more focused but with some distracting disregard for balanced form. Duras writes brilliantly about true crime, Yves Saint Laurent, the art of literary translation, her dislike of Sartre and Marxism-Leninism, and the magic of having her portrait painted. And she can stop hearts recalling scenes from her difficult childhood or her grief for her son who died an hour after birth. The genre-bending centerpiece, “Summer 80,” echoes her memoir, Yann Andréa Steiner, as Duras muses on the sea while threading in two fables about a boy and a shark, and a boy and his female camp counselor on the beach. Adding in political commentary about Iran, the Moscow Olympic Games, the Polish workers’ strike in Gdańsk, in Duras' hands the disparate mix of fact and fiction yields an overall feeling of intense, poetic vulnerability and fervent political ideals. The book’s translators comment in an afterword on the difficulties of bringing these Duras texts into English “with all her strangeness and mystery intact.” While there is often a thrilling sense of pushing into the hidden aspects of reality, the many hyperbolic and contradictory “absurdities,” as Duras calls them, make for a bumpy ride.

A luminous, erudite exploration of self and art marred by too many outlandish turns.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948980-02-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Dorothy

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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