Marguerite Duras

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Marguerite Duras
Duras, 1993
BornMarguerite Donnadieu
(1914-04-04)4 April 1914
Gia Định, Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam)
Died3 March 1996(1996-03-03) (aged 81)
Paris, France
  • Robert Antelme
  • Dionys Mascolo
  • Yann Andréa

Marguerite Germaine Marie Donnadieu (4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996), known as Marguerite Duras (French: [maʁɡ(ə)ʁit dyʁas]), was a French novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker. Her script for the film Hiroshima mon amour (1959) earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on 4 April 1914, in Gia Định,[1] Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam). Her parents, Marie (née Legrand, 1877-1956) and Henri Donnadieu (1872-1921), were teachers from France who likely had met at Gia Định High School.[2][3] They had both had previous marriages. Marguerite had two older brothers: Pierre, the elder, and Paul.

Duras's father fell ill and he returned to France, where he died in 1921. Between 1922 and 1924, the family lived in France while her mother was on administrative leave. They then moved back to French Indochina when she was posted to Phnom Penh followed by Vĩnh Long and Sa Đéc. The family struggled financially and her mother made a bad investment in an isolated property and area of rice farmland in Prey Nob,[2] a story which was fictionalized in Un narrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall).

In 1931, when she was 17, Duras and her family moved to France and she completed her baccalaureate. Duras returned to Saigon again with Paul and her mother in 1932 and completed her second baccalaureate, leaving Pierre in France. In 1933, Duras embarked alone for Paris to study law and mathematics. She soon abandoned this to concentrate on political science.[2] After completing her studies in 1938, she worked for the French government in the Ministry of the Colonies. In 1939, she married the writer Robert Antelme, whom she had met during her studies.[2]

During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, Duras worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper quotas to publishers and in the process operated a de facto book-censorship system. She also became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party)[2] and a member of the French Resistance as a part of a small group that also included François Mitterrand, who later became President of France and remained a lifelong friend of hers.[2] Duras' husband, Antelme, was deported to Buchenwald in 1944[4] for his involvement in the Resistance, and barely survived the experience (weighing on his release, according to Duras, just 38 kg, or 84 pounds). She nursed him back to health, but they divorced once he recovered.

In 1943, when publishing her first novel, she began to use the surname Duras, after the town that her father came from, Duras.[5]

In 1950, her mother returned to France, wealthy from property investments and from the boarding school she had run.[3]


Duras was the author of many novels, plays, films, interviews, essays, and works of short fiction, including her best-selling, highly fictionalized autobiographical work L'Amant (1984), translated into English as The Lover, which describes her youthful affair with a Chinese-Vietnamese man. It won the Prix Goncourt in 1984.[6] The story of her adolescence also appears in three other books: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover, produced by Claude Berri and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, was released to great success in 1992. Duras's novel The Sea Wall was first adapted into the 1958 film This Angry Age by René Clément, and again in 2008 by Cambodian director Rithy Panh as The Sea Wall.[citation needed]

Other major works include Moderato Cantabile (1958), which was the basis of the 1960 film Seven Days... Seven Nights; Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein (1964); and her play India Song, which Duras herself later directed as a film in 1975. She was also the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.[7] Duras's early novels were fairly conventional in form, and were criticized for their "romanticism" by fellow writer Raymond Queneau; however, with Moderato Cantabile, she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the nouveau roman French literary movement, although she did not belong definitively to any one group. She was noted for her command of dialogue.[8]

In 1971, Duras signed the Manifesto of the 343, which publicly announced she had an abortion.[9]

Many of her works, such as Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein and L'Homme assis dans le couloir (1980), deal with human sexuality.[10]

Towards the end of her life, Duras published a short, 54-page autobiographical book as a goodbye to her readers and family. The last entry was written on August 1, 1995 and read "I think it is all over. That my life is finished. I am no longer anything. I have become an appalling sight. I am falling apart. Come quickly. I no longer have a mouth, no longer a face".[11] Duras died at her home in Paris on March 3, 1996, aged 81.[12]

Personal life[edit]

While married to Robert Antelme, Duras acted on her belief that fidelity was absurd. She created a ménage à trois when she started an affair with the writer Dionys Mascolo, who fathered her son Jean Mascolo.[13]

During the final two decades of Duras’ life, she experienced various health issues. Starting in 1980 she was hospitalized for the first time from a combination of alcohol and tranquilizers.[13] She was also undergoing various detoxification procedures to help her recover from her alcohol addiction. After being hospitalized in October 1988 she fell into a coma that lasted until June 1989.[14]

Paralleling her health issues in the 1980s, Duras began having a relationship with a homosexual actor named Yann Andréa.[13] Yann Andréa would help Duras through her various health issues. Duras would later detail these interactions and companionship in her final book Yann Andréa Steiner.[15]

Duras’ health would continue to decline into the 1990s, resulting in her death on March 3, 1996.[16]


Novels and stories



  • Les Viaducs de la Seine et Oise, Gallimard, 1959
  • Théâtre I: Les Eaux et Forêts; Le Square; La Musica, Gallimard, 1965 (tr. The Rivers and the Forests, 1964; The Square; La Musica, 1965)
  • Théâtre II: Suzanna Andler; Des journées entières dans les arbres; Yes, peut-être; Le Shaga; Un homme est venu me voir, Gallimard, 1968
  • India Song, Gallimard, 1973. Translated by Barbara Bray as India Song, 1976
  • L'Eden Cinéma, Mercure de France, 1977. Translated by Barbara Bray as Eden Cinema, 1992
  • Agatha, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1981 (tr. Agatha)
  • Savannah Bay, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1982, 2ème edition augmentée, 1983 (tr. Savannah Bay, 1992)
  • Théâtre III: La Bête dans la jungle; Les Papiers d'Aspern; La Danse de mort, Gallimard, 1984
  • La Musica deuxième, Gallimard, 1985


  • Hiroshima mon amour, Gallimard, 1960. Translated by Barbara Wright & Richard Seaver as Hiroshima mon amour, 1961
  • Nathalie Granger, suivi de "La Femme du Gange", Gallimard, 1973
  • Le Camion, suivi de "Entretien avec Michelle Porte", Les Éditions de Minuit, 1977
  • Le Navire Night, suivi de Cesarée, les Mains négatives, Aurélia Steiner, Mercure de France, 1979. Translated by Susan Dwyer as The Ship "Night"

Published in English




  • India Song (1975) - (voice)
  • The Lorry (1977) - Elle
  • Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977) - Narrator (voice, uncredited)
  • Le Navire Night (1979) - (voice)
  • Aurélia Steiner (Vancouver) (1979) - Narrator (voice)
  • Agatha et les Lectures illimitées (1981) - (voice)
  • Les Enfants (1985) - Narration (voice, uncredited) (final film role)


  1. ^ "Bnf: Notice de personne: Duras, Marguerite ((1914-1996)" (in French). Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Riding, Alan. "Marguerite Duras, 81, Author Who Explored Love and Sex". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b Adler, Laure (15 December 2000). Marguerite Duras: A Life. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-00758-8.
  4. ^ "Transport parti de Compiègne le 17 août 1944 (I.265.)" (in French). Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  5. ^ Kushner, Rachel. ""A Man and a Woman, Say What You Like, They're Different": On Marguerite Duras". The New Yorker. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Le Palmarès". Académie Goncourt.
  7. ^ "The Criterion Collection – Hiroshima Mon Amour". The Criterion Collection.
  8. ^ "Marguerite Duras". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  9. ^ "manifeste des 343". 23 April 2001. Archived from the original on 23 April 2001. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  10. ^ Alex Hughes, "Erotic Writing" in Hughes and Keith Reader, Encyclopedia of contemporary French culture, (pp. 187–88). London, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0415131863
  11. ^ Riding, Alan (4 March 1996). "Marguerite Duras, 81, Author Who Explored Love and Sex". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  12. ^ Coward, David (4 March 1996). "Passion into Prose: Obituary: Marguerite Duras". The Guardian. p. 12.
  13. ^ a b c Vircondelet, Alain (15 March 1996). "Overstepping Boundaries: A Life of Maguerite Duras". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Duras, Marguerite (1914–1996)". Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Duras, Marguerite (1914–1996)". Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Duras, Marguerite (1914–1996)". Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  17. ^ No More at Seven Stories Press.
  18. ^ AlloCine, Le Camion, retrieved 17 June 2019

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]