On Marguerite Duras and "Writing"
Marguerite Duras’s essay, “Writing,” ends with: “Writing comes like the wind. It’s naked, it’s made of ink, it’s the thing written, and it passes like nothing else passes in life, nothing more, except life itself.”
Marguerite Duras. What a name.
Like Lol Stein.
I am listening to Soley, this song on repeat, thinking about solitude and loneliness, thinking about Friday night and Daylight Savings, how dark it is suddenly, thinking about Marguerite Duras and her essay, thinking about “Writing”:
“Dusk is the time when everyone around the writer stops working.
“In the cities, the villages, everywhere, writers are solitary people. Everywhere, always, they have been.
“All over the world, the end of light means the end of work.
“As for myself, I’ve always experienced that time not as the moment when work ends, but when it begins. A sort of reversal of natural values by the writer.”
Doritos for dinner. A bite-sized Snickers, from Halloween. Chamomile tea. Cold. Now coffee. Milk like normal but also a spoonful of sugar. Indulgence. The need for something stronger.
Wikipedia says Duras battled with alcoholism. I think of her in these dark hours, craving:
“Crying has to happen, too.
“Even if it’s useless to cry, I still think we have to cry. Because despair is tangible. It remains. The memory of despair remains. Sometimes it kills.
“No one can.
“We have to admit: we cannot.
“And yet we write.
“It’s the unknown one carries within oneself: writing is what is attained. It’s that or nothing.
“One can speak of a writing sickness.
“What I’m trying to say isn’t easy, but I believe we can find our way here, comrades of the world.”
She made movies. Is this one? Hard to say but I guess yes. Maybe. I used to want to make movies. Thought, Maybe film. Maybe acting. Directing. I think now, Maybe producing. Maybe one day.
Duras, Marguerite. Before “Durasoff, Steve” and after “Duras, Claire Louise Rose Bonne de Coëtnempren de Kersaint de Durfort, duchesse de.” I know, right?
Marguerite Duras says: “Writing was the only thing that populated my life and made it magic. I did it. Writing never left me.”
I think: I don’t want it to leave me either. It’s my magic, too. I think: Why do it? I think: Why do you — why do we — do it?
“Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you. To be without the slightest subject for a book, the slightest idea for a book, is to find yourself, once again, before a book. A vast emptiness. A possible book. Before nothing. Before something like living, naked writing, like something terrible, terrible to overcome. I believe that the person who writes does not have any ideas for a book, that her hands are empty, her head is empty, and that all she knows of this adventure, this book, is dry, naked writing, without a future, without echo, distant, with only its elementary golden rules: spelling, meaning.”
I am in that strange place familiar to many writers — that weird space in which one book has been written and published and the next has yet to come. This is no easy space to navigate. There is doubt. There is “possibility.” There is “nothing.” And there is also solitude. The door, I know now after so many false starts, must shut tight.
(Who said that? King?)
Solitude — a particular focus of Duras’s “Writing”:
“I preserved the solitude of those first books. I carried it with me. I’ve always carried my writing with me wherever I go. Paris. Trouville. New York. It was in Trouville that I ended the madness of becoming Lola Valerie Stein. It was also in Trouville that the name Yann Andrea Steiner appeared to me with unforgettable clarity. That was one year ago.”
Yesterday, while walking in the rain, I said aloud, over and over: and it was the rain on the leaves and the leaves falling soft on our wet bodies, and it was the rain on the leaves and the leaves falling soft on our wet bodies.
Who knows why. Just words.
I am entering a new madness now. The madness of becoming myself. “I” as character. Another retelling, but this time also a biography of women. A biography of how many women and of myself. An autobiomythography. I’ve heard this term before. Feels silly to use it myself, though. A myth, then. Mythology of myself? And fairy tale, too, of course.
We’re just thinking aloud here, right? These are just words?
The fear of the second book. That it won’t be good, won’t be better. Must be better. Must transcend.
Fear. Fear and paralysis.
I will overcome this fear. I will get up. I will stop being afraid. I will get back up. I will stand up. I will try again. I will shut the door and write another book.
“The person who writes books must always be enveloped by a separation from others. That is one kind of solitude. It is the solitude of the author, of writing. To begin with, one must ask oneself what the silence surrounding one is — with practically every step one takes in a house, at every moment of the day, in every kind of light, whether light from outside or from lamps lit in daytime. This real, corporeal solitude becomes the inviolable silence of writing. I’ve never spoken of this to anyone. By the time of my first solitude, I had already discovered that what I had to do was write.”
I spent two hours yesterday Google Imaging “Shabby Chic.” Fell in love with this table, all of these settings, wanted to take a nap on this couch, wanted this to be my bedroom and this to be my dining room, and decided I wouldn’t mind this one bit.
I have been imagining how I might decorate a space — a space for my characters, the cottage they live in; and a space for me, where writing happens.
“One does not find solitude, one creates it. Solitude is created alone. I have created it. Because I decided that here was where I should be alone, that I would be alone to write books. It happened this way. I was alone in this house. I shut myself in — of course, I was afraid. And then I began to love it. This house became the house of writing. My books come from this house. From this light as well, and from the garden. From the light reflecting off the pond. It has taken me twenty years to write what I just said.”
Marguerite Duras. I didn’t even know of her until this review. Still, I didn’t read her. I watched The Loveron Netflix and skimmed the book, but did not read anything else of hers until now.
I was in NY not long ago. I read with Kimiko Hahn, Tracy Smith, and Garrett Hongo who said, Your work reminds me of Marguerite Duras’s. I said, I’ve only read The Lover. No, he said. The writings, the essays.
I began to read. I am reading now. Preparing to write again. And why? Some strange compelling force, unexplainable. A need. A craving. Because it is a madness that will not “leave me”? Because I have found myself in a hole?
“In life there comes a moment, and I believe that it’s unavoidable, that one cannot escape it, when everything is put in doubt: marriage, friends, especially friends of the couple. Not children. Children are never put in doubt. And this doubt grows around one. This doubt is alone, it is the doubt of solitude. It is born of solitude. We can already speak the word. I believe that most people couldn’t stand what I’m saying here, that they’d run away from it. This might be the reason why not everyone is a writer. Yes. That’s the difference. That is the truth. No other. Doubt equals writing. So it also equals the writer. And for the writer, everyone writes. We’ve always known this.”
I’ll end here, with that doubt, and begin, somewhere else. . . .
Molly Gaudry is the author of We Take Me Apart, which was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards and shortlisted for the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil. She is the founder of The Lit Pub.
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Example of a Literary Analysis essay on Literature about:
love / relationship / The Lover / Duras
The presentation Marguerite Duras’ definition of love provided in her novel “The Lover”.
Why is “The Lover” considered to be a revolutionary novel?
How does Marguerite Duras’ novel “The Lover” determine the notion of love?
How does the psychological portrait of the main character affect the whole story?
It is a love story without any real continuation but with millions of them in the head of each of the lovers. At the same time it is also a story of opposing social abutments and the failure to fight them.
“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras Essay
Introduction: “The Lover” is the novel that can be considered a rebellion in the world of stereotype relationships and ordinary understanding of love. It is the story that turns over standard love. It is a love story without any real continuation but with millions of them in the head of each of the lovers. At the same time it is also a story of opposing social abutments and the failure to fight them.
What is a “standard lover” like? “He” is an embodiment of strength and courageousness to do anything for the name of his love. He adores his beloved one and “she” is fragile and very feminine. They write letters and poems to each other; looking forward the next time they are going to see each other. Can this description considered to be a perfect and exact description of a love relationship? At least it is the most dominant trend, which is very likely to be observed anywhere. This is just the way things usually are and ordinary nothing should change it. “The Lover” is one of the exceptions from the general regularity. It is a life-story of a woman, a story that has always lived in her heart, the story of her life, which she could not change for a happy end. From the very beginning of the book she says: “Very early in my life it was much too late” (Duras 4). This intensifies the meaning of the forbidden relationship that she had in the past when she was just a fifteen-year-old girl attending a boarding school. This French fifteen-year-old girl, abused by her “beggar”-family and living in her own little world meets the son of a Chinese millionaire on a ferry and starts a relationship with him. She herself does not consider this affair to have anything to do with love. She constantly denies she has any feeling except sexual desire for this young man and does not acknowledge it even at the moment of losing him. She recognizes it too late and says: “The story of my life does not exist” (Duras 8). She is as cold as an iceberg, not letting herself show even a minimal manifestation of love. She is just letting him to love her without giving any tenderness and understanding in response. The heroine acts very man-like and is rather masculine in her attitude towards the man she is having a relationship with. She wants to be treated like “ one of those women” and seems not to care about truly loving each other and even opening hearts like ordinary lovers do. “The lover” in his turn seeks for her love and strives for gentleness and affection, he believes in love but all he sees is the wall of a pompous “indifference”. He even cries; it is a cry for her feelings, for her warmth but nevertheless his blast is all in vain. He feels pain but cannot express it because she does not listen to him. The heroine tells the reader: "He didn't speak of the pain, never said a word about it. Sometimes his face would quiver; he'd close his eyes and clench his teeth. But he never said anything about the images he saw behind his closed eyes. It was as if he loved the pain, loved it as he'd loved me, intensely, unto death perhaps, and as if he preferred it now to me"(Duras 56). Here, the woman tries to hold her feelings and does not confess she is in love which makes an automatic parallel with a standard conduct of a man.
Conclusion: The heroine has a very complicated psychological portrait. She consists of lots of problems she does not even suspect of. She is young, afraid to love, ambitious and tries to prove something to the world around her. This affair is doomed from the very beginning by social and racial prejudices of the prewar 1930’s. She tries to hide her feeling behind a sexual relationship because this way it is the easiest way of accepting the impossibility of being together. She uses the escape from the reality as a protection, as a psychological defense mechanism. The novel is very dramatic and reveals the importance to speak out feelings, it challenges the existing relationship stereotypes. She needed to be open and feminine and not naive in order to understand “that he'd love her until death." (Duras 98).