Born in 1914, Marguerite Duras was a French writer and film director. Her novel, The Lover, won the Prix Goncourt in 1984 and was made into a widely acclaimed film. She died in 1996.
"Writing displays Marguerite Duras's unique, detailed perception to reveal great reverence for human life and respect for memory. An enthralling book."
"Mark Polizzotti's translation from the French captures the poetic simplicity of Duras's style--a language delicate, yet rich in imagery."
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.”
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. . . .