Thursday, July 26, 2007

Duras' other texts

Emilie Bickerton reviews Marguerite Duras' Cahiers de la Guerre et Autres Texts and finds what is timeless in her work.
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.


  1. Anonymous7:32 am

    Bickerton has proved herself to be a fairly perceptive reader in the past so I'm keen to read this piece: thanks for flagging it up Steve.

    Certainly, reading Duras is a wonderful experience. She does seem to have a "timeless" quality which rises from an "existentialism" -- still a useful if problematic term -- which is very much her own and quite unlike the engagement of Sartre et al.

  2. Anyone think that the one thing Sartre definitely isn't is an existenitalist? The first thing he does with existence is impose an artificial mental construct or filter of "meaninglessness" upon it, thus ensuring he never encounters this naked existence.
    Sorry that's fairly off-topic.

  3. Anonymous8:13 pm

    "Flagging it up"? For heaven's sake ...

  4. Anonymous3:35 pm

    What is 'Mitchelmore watch' is that some kind of secret organisation?

    Stupid comment, but no one could be an existentialist - it is a label that others place on you. As is surrealist and so on...

    Will Large



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