Marguerite Duras

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Marguerite Duras
Duras, 1993
BornMarguerite Donnadieu
(1914-04-04)4 April 1914
Saigon, Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam)
Died3 March 1996(1996-03-03) (aged 81)
Paris, France
Occupation
NationalityFrench
Period1943–1995
Spouses
  • Robert Antelme
  • Dionys Mascolo

Marguerite Donnadieu, known as Marguerite Duras (French: [maʁ.ɡə.ʁit dy.ʁas]; 4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996), 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.

Born in French Indochina, to two teachers (immigrants from France), her first sexual experiences were those of an impoverished, clever, French girl, growing up in Indochina. She was sent to France before World War II (to continue her education), and experienced that war as a young woman in occupied France. Her experience of the war and of growing up in Indochina were to form much of the basis of her writing. (See the bibliography.)

Biography[edit]

Youth[edit]

Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on April 4, 1914, in Gia-Dinh[1] (near to Saigon), Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam); she was the only daughter of two teachers who had responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging French people to settle in the colony.[2]

Duras's father fell ill soon after their arrival and returned to France, where he died. After his death, her mother remained in Indochina with her three children. The family lived in relative poverty after her mother made a bad investment in an isolated property and area of rice farmland in Cambodia.[2] See, e.g. Un Barrage contre le Pacifique. The difficult life that the family experienced during this period was highly influential on Duras's later work. An affair between the teenaged Duras and Huynh Thuy Le, the son of a rich Sa Đéc merchant, was to be treated several times (described in quite contrasting ways) in her subsequent memoirs and fiction. See, e.g. Un Barrage contre le Pacifique, L'amant, L'Amant de la Chine du Nord. She also reported being beaten by her mother during this period.[citation needed]

At 17, Duras went to France, her parents' native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics. She soon abandoned this to concentrate on political science, then law.[2] After completing her studies, through 1941, she worked for the French government in the Ministry of the Colonies;[2] in the 1930s she also changed her name to Marguerite Duras. She married in 1939 to the writer Robert Antelme.[2]

During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, Duras worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper quotas to publishers (in the process operating a de facto book-censorship system), but 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 Duras.[2] Her husband, Antelme, was deported to Buchenwald in 1944[3] for his involvement in the Resistance, and barely survived the experience (weighing on his release, according to Duras, just 38 kg). She nursed him back to health, but they divorced once he recovered his health.

In 1943, for her first published novel Les Impudents, she decided to use as pen name the surname of Duras, a village in the Lot-et-Garonne département, where her father's house was located.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

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 man. It won the Goncourt prize in 1984.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

Many of her works, such as Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein and L'Homme assis dans le couloir (1980), deal with human sexuality.[7] Her films are also experimental in form; most eschew synchronized sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story; spoken text is juxtaposed with images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less indirect. Despite her success as a writer, Duras's adult life was also marked by personal challenges, including a recurring struggle with alcoholism. In 1983 she was awarded the Grand Prix du Théâtre de l'Académie française. In 1998, No More was recognized as a Los Angeles Times Book Review Best of Nonfiction book.[citation needed]

Duras died of throat cancer in Paris in 1996, aged 81.[citation needed] Her funeral, held in the packed church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, was highlighted with several musical recordings, including a piano version of "India Song". She is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.[citation needed]

Bibliography[edit]

Filmography as director[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bnf: Notice de personne: Duras, Marguerite ((1914-1996)" (in French). Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Riding, Alan. "Marguerite Duras, 81, Author Who Explored Love and Sex". New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Transport parti de Compiègne le 17 août 1944 (I.265.)" (in French). Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Le Palmarès". Académie Goncourt.
  5. ^ "The Criterion Collection – Hiroshima Mon Amour". The Criterion Collection.
  6. ^ "Marguerite Duras". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  7. ^ Alex Hughes, "Erotic Writing" in Hughes and Keith Reader, Encyclopedia of contemporary French culture, (pp. 187–88). London, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0415131863
  8. ^ No More at Seven Stories Press.
  9. ^ Marguerite Duras: Fascinating Vision and Narrative Cure at Google Books.
  10. ^ "Marguerite Duras: Apocalyptic Desires" at Google Books.

External links[edit]