Authors: Marguerite Duras

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist, playwright, and screenwriter

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Les Impudents, 1943

La Vie tranquille, 1944

Un Barrage contre le Pacifique, 1950 (The Sea Wall, 1952; also known as A Sea of Troubles, 1953)

Le Marin de Gibraltar, 1952 (The Sailor from Gibraltar, 1966)

Les Petits Chevaux de Tarquinia, 1953 (The Little Horses of Tarquinia, 1960)

Le Square, 1955 (The Square, 1959)

Moderato Cantabile, 1958 (English translation, 1960)

Dix Heures et demie du soir en été, 1960 (Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night, 1962)

L’Après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas, 1962 (The Afternoon of Monsieur Andesmas, 1964)

Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, 1964 (The Ravishing of Lol Stein, 1966)

Le Vice-consul, 1966 (The Vice-Consul, 1968)

L’Amante anglaise, 1967 (English translation, 1968)

Détruire, dit-elle, 1969 (Destroy, She Said, 1970)

Abahn Sabana David, 1970

L’Amour, 1971

India Song: Texte-théâtre-film, 1973 (English translation, 1976)

La Maladie de la morte, 1982 (The Malady of Death, 1986)

L’Amant, 1984 (The Lover, 1985)

Les Yeux bleus, cheveux noirs, 1987 (Blue Eyes, Black Hair, 1987)

Emily L., 1987 (English translation, 1989)

La Pluie d’été, 1990 (Summer Rain, 1992)

L’Amant de la Chine du Nord, 1991 (The North China Lover, 1992)

Yann Andrea Steiner, 1992 (Yann Andrea Steiner: A Memoir, 1993)

Short Fiction:

Des journées entières dans les arbres, 1954 (Days in the Trees, 1967)

L’Homme assis dans le couloir, 1980 (The Man Sitting in the Corridor, 1991)

L’Homme atlantique, 1982

La Pute de la côte Normande, 1986

Two by Duras, 1993 (includes The Slut of the Normandy Coast and The Atlantic Man)

Drama:

Le Square, pr. 1957 (The Square, 1967)

Les Viaducs de la Seine-et-Oise, pr., pb. 1960 (The Viaducts of Seine-et-Oise, 1967)

Les Papiers d’Aspern, pr. 1961 (with Robert Antelme; adaptation of Michael Redgrave’s adaptation of Henry James’s novella The Aspern Papers)

La Bête dans la jungle, pr. 1962 (with James Lords; adaptation of Henry James’s story “The Beast in the Jungle”)

Miracle en Alabama, pr. 1962 (with Gérard Jarlot; adaptation of William Gibson’s play The MiracleWorker)

Les Eaux et forêts, pr., pb. 1965 (The Rivers and Forests, 1965)

La Musica, pr., pb. 1965 (The Music, 1967)

Des journées entières dans les arbres, pr. 1965 (Days in the Trees, 1967)

Théâtre, pb. 1965-1999 (4 volumes)

Three Plays, pb. 1967 (includes The Square, Days in the Trees, and The Viaducts of Seine-et-Oise)

L’Amante anglaise, pr., pb. 1968 (A Place Without Doors, 1970)

Un Homme est venu me voir, pr., pb. 1968

La Danse de mort, pr. 1970 (adaptation of August Strindberg’s play Dösdansen, andra delen)

Home, pb. 1973 (adaptation of David Storey’s play)

India Song: Textethéâtre-film, pb. 1973 (English translation, 1976)

L’Éden Cinéma, pr., pb. 1977 (The Eden Cinema, 1986)

Agatha, pb. 1981 (English translation, 1992)

Savannah Bay, pr., pb. 1982 (English translation, 1992)

La Mouette, pb. 1985 (adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull)

La Musica, deuxième, pr., pb. 1985

Four Plays, pb. 1992 (includes La Musica, Eden Cinema, Savannah Bay, and India Song)

Screenplays:

Hiroshima mon amour, 1959 (Hiroshima mon amour: Text by Marguerite Duras for the Film by Alain Resnais, 1961)

Une Aussi Longue Absence, 1961 (with Gérard Jarlot; English translation, 1966)

La Musica, 1966 (with Paul Seban)

Détruire, dit-elle, 1969

Nathalie Granger, 1972

La Femme du Gange, 1973

India Song: Texte-théâtre-film, 1973

Baxter, Véra Baxter, 1976

Des journées entières dans les arbres, 1976

Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert, 1976

Le Camion, 1977

Le Navire “Night,” 1978

Cesarée, 1979

Les Mains négatives, 1979

Aurélia Steiner, 1979

Agatha: Ou, Les Lectures illisibles, 1982

L’Homme atlantique, 1982

Nonfiction:

Les Parleuses, 1974 (Woman to Woman, 1987)

Les Lieux de Marguerite Duras, 1977

Outside, papiers d’un jour, 1981 (Outside: Selected Writings, 1986)

La Douleur, 1985 (The War: A Memoir, 1986)

La Vie matérielle, 1987 (Practicalities: Marguerite Duras Speaks to Jérôme Beaujour, 1990)

Les Yeux verts, 1987 (Green Eyes, 1990)

Ecrire, 1993 (Writing, 1998)

Outside II: Le Monde extérieur, 1993

C’est tout, 1995 (No More, 1998)

Biography

For many years neglected by readers and critics outside France, Marguerite Duras (dew-rah) attained a position of preeminence among postwar French writers late in her life. The daughter of teachers, she was born Marguerite Donnadieu in French Indochina (now South Vietnam). She began her studies at the Lycée de Saigon in 1924; in 1931, she entered the Faculté de Droit and the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris, where she obtained degrees in 1935. Her early novels attracted little attention, but she reached a world public by writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s filmHiroshima mon amour. Her fame increased with the publication and translations of later works, her conversations with Xavière Gauthier, and her recollections of the war years and the Resistance movement; her prizewinning novel The Lover established her reputation as one of the major French writers of the twentieth century.{$I[AN]9810001237}{$I[A]Duras, Marguerite}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Duras, Marguerite}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Duras, Marguerite}{$I[tim]1914;Duras, Marguerite}

Marguerite Duras in 1955.

(New Press)

Duras’s development as a writer may be viewed as a progression through three phases. Her early works reflect the strong influence of such American authors as Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck: Events are narrated clearly and consecutively, characters are introduced and developed conventionally, and dialogue develops the movement of the story. There is a certain flatness and matter-of-factness in the presentation of the fictional events.

Though she chose never to commit herself to any sort of literary movement, maintaining always her personal identity by extending new avenues of development for fiction in her individual way, Duras’s works written in her second phase are closely allied with those of the French New Novelists Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Michel Butor. In The Square, she explores the use of dialogue alone to reveal character and suggest dramatic situations; there is no linear plot. This work, which has been staged successfully, reveals the lives of a shabby traveling salesman and a humble nursemaid who meet by chance on a park bench and open themselves to each other through conversation. There is virtually no traditional description of time, place, or setting. The conversation occurs in a warm and green void.

The screenplay for Hiroshima mon amour is a pivotal work: Duras avoids the traditionally chronological and linear way of telling a story in order to reveal, through what were unusual flashbacks at the time, the assault of the past on the present, as memories of a tragic love affair intrude into the mind of a film actress. “She” (as in The Square, no character has a name in this work) remembers, after twelve years, the pain of loss and bereavement suffered at the time of the murder of her German lover during the Occupation and reveals the painful details to her new Japanese lover. The “tragedy of forgetfulness” overwhelms the woman as she relives her grief. The tenderness and compassion that characterize later works of Duras are already evident here: A lonely outsider conveys her suffering to another, who responds with tolerance and sympathy in simple, often poetic language.

In her later works (the third phase), Duras enters so completely into the mind of a character that heavy demands are made on the reader. In The Lover, winner of the Prix Goncourt, she leads the reader through the consciousness of a woman in her fifties who recalls her youth with her family, her first lover, and the devastation time has wrought upon her face and body since then. Memories reflected in specific incidents occupy her mind, haphazardly, organized only by associations of ideas or feelings. This oblique technique, suggested in Hiroshima mon amour, is here perfected: A stream of consciousness flows undisturbed through a past of more than forty years.

Duras attracted considerable attention in France because of her outspoken political views and her support of the women’s liberation movement, which she expressed on television and in newspaper articles. Published interviews express the positions she maintained since the formation of the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes (MLF), when the women’s movement took on renewed vigor in France. Feminist themes are explored throughout the works of Duras, but in the late novels and interviews they assume a more important role. After the success of Hiroshima mon amour, Duras devoted more and more time to cinema; she adapted her own works for major directors, including Peter Brook and Tony Richardson, wrote scenarios for others, and directed more than ten feature films which she wrote herself. Duras died in 1996 at the age of eighty-one.

BibliographyAdler, Laure. Marguerite Duras: A Life. Translated by Anne-Marie Glasheen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. A portrait of the novelist, especially interesting in its examination of Duras’s heretofore little known activity during World War II.Cody, Gabrielle H. Impossible Performances: Duras as Dramatist. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. Treats Duras as one of the most important dramatists of the century, a feminist and postcolonialist whose plays operate against what Cody identifies as the masculine ideals of representational, realistic theater.Glassman, Deborah N. Marguerite Duras: Fascinating Vision and Narrative Cure. Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991. Chapter 1 provides an overview of Duras’s life and career, chapter 2 concentrates on The Ravishing of Lol Stein, chapter 3 on The Vice-Consul and India Song, chapter 4 on autobiographies and fictions. Includes detailed notes and extensive bibliography.Schuster, Marilyn R. Marguerite Duras Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1993. Updates and thoroughly revises the original Twayne volume of 1971. This newer volume takes into account Duras’s later fiction and the growing body of criticism. Schuster includes chapters on Duras’s life, on her coming-of-age stories, on her work in films, and on her major novels. In addition to a chronology, there is also an annotated bibliography.Vircondelet, Alain. Duras: A Biography. Translated by Thomas Buckley. Normal, Ill.: Dalkey Archive Press, 1994. This translation from the French of a book that appeared in France in 1991 is the first biography of Duras. See the biographer’s preface for his approach to her life and work and for problems faced by any biography of this complex figure. Includes an extensive bibliography.Williams, James S. The Erotics of Passage: Pleasure, Politics, and Form in the Later Work of Marguerite Duras. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Chapters on all Duras’s major works in her last phase, with a detailed bibliography.Willis, Sharon. Marguerite Duras: Writing on the Body. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987. Willis deals with Duras’s entire career–her fiction and her film work–with separate chapters on Hiroshima mon amour, The Ravishing of Lol Stein, and The Vice-Consul and L’Amour, emphasizing the erotic figure of both the author and her fiction, as well as the elusiveness that Vircondelet finds also in his biography. Provides detailed notes and bibliography.Winston, Jane Bradley. Postcolonial Duras: Cultural Memory in Postwar France. New York: Palgrave, 2002. An examination of Duras’s role as an intellectual force in a colonizing power, particularly valuable in the light of her early life in French Indochina and her continued use of the region as a setting.
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