Comparisons with Beauvoir are striking. Duras's fictions exist in a world dominated by ennui, a sense of otherness from the world, full of intense emotions, but mostly internal experiences. When events and a historical context are required, there is a blandness to the writing that means one layer separates from the other; reality and how that reality is experienced become two distinct things. In Beauvoir’s work, the two remain soldered together because her literary aim was to present her protagonists as actors in the world.This rings true. I happened to have just read The Square and was surprised at the intense emotion rising from the ennui and otherness of the narrative.
Standard literary histories have tended to bracket Duras together with other intellectuals of the period. But not only did Duras personally dislike Camus, Sartre and Beauvoir, it is unclear what she contributed in terms of ideas, given that she was preoccupied rather with abstract questions of style.This perhaps pushes Duras too far from political engagement. Above all, The Square reminded me of Blanchot's novels and, as Lars Spurious relates in his wonderful rue Saint-Benoît series from 2004, she was close to Blanchot and Bataille among others, all far more interesting in literary and political terms than the usual suspects of standard literary histories.