The Malady of Death

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The Malady of Death
The Malady of Death.jpg
AuthorMarguerite Duras
Original titleLa Maladie de la mort
TranslatorBarbara Bray
PublisherLes Éditions de Minuit
Publication date
Published in English

The Malady of Death (French: La Maladie de la mort) is a 1982 novella by the French writer Marguerite Duras. It tells the story of a man who pays a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea to learn "how to love".


The Malady of Death is about an unconventional sexual relationship between a man and a woman. The man hires the woman to stay with him in a hotel by the sea, hoping that by doing so, he will be able to experience love. The woman accepts the proposal even though she is not a prostitute. After some days, the woman tells him that he is incapable of love as he is afflicted with the "malady of death". The book is written in the second-person narrative; throughout the book, the man is referred to as "you", and the woman as "she".


Duras began to write the book in Trouville, where she drank six to seven litres of wine each day. When the first ten pages were finished she moved to Neauphle. She stopped eating but continued drinking; she began each morning by drinking two glasses which she vomited up, and was then able to keep the third. Duras had become incapable to write herself, so she recited lines while her muse Yann Andréa wrote them down for her. The manuscript had the development title "A scent of heliotrope and citron", but when it was 20 pages long Duras changed it to the final title. Eventually Duras agreed to go to a clinic for alcoholics, and on 21 October 1982, she was taken to the American Hospital of Paris.[1] Upon returning from the clinic she immediately began to proofread the work.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adler 2006, pp. 336–337
  2. ^ Adler 2006, p. 339