Created from Tears"
(English translation by Phil Holmes)
in MD, THE JEWISH THEATRE STOCKHOLM 2007
(Marguerite Duras qui pleurait
parfois pour écrire ses livres)
in Duras, Les Cahiers de
(n°86 novembre 2005)
when I remember Marguerite Duras through a fleeting memory or by a
chance reading of some pages she has written, I get a strong
impression of the enormous freedom which she possessed. In her
writing and in her life as a whole. Which is why one day I had the
idea of embarking on a story in which Marguerite Duras would be the
central character. This was about two years before she died; the book
was finished but was published the year after her death. I would
never have contemplated writing it if she had already died. If that
had been the case it would have become a different book, and for
different reasons. No, in this book I wanted to depict her freedom of
life. And because she was also without doubt the most literary figure
I have ever met, capable at any moment of starting to tell a story.
My intention was not to write a novel about her life; even less did I
want to claim that her life was a novel. Yes, yet at the same time
no. It was she herself who wrote that novel, about writing and daily
life. She was a great director of words.
freedom, one should not forget that in the 1950s, in connection with
Le Marin de Gibraltar,
people criticised Duras for taking up the theme of social alienation.
An expression nowadays curiously disappeared, considering it refers
both to human oppression as well as to the pulsations of life.
Duras meant was that she was free from all social laws and
conventions, and, as she said of herself, free from a sense of
modesty, a freedom on which
her ability to write fiction is based. I would venture to say that
Duras’ writing is one long poem, like a mountain without a
precipice, like one global ocean. Writing was the act of foundation,
the matrix underlying everything, even the film work she did, without
being “hard labour”, that was writing too.
had a fascinating tendency to wish to place the writer on a pedestal.
In her view the writer and author was set above all others, royal.
One should perhaps always remember: the sovereign writer.
course this is linked to the huge demands placed on her authorship,
in which two central themes would meet; writing should be carried out
with the maximum precision, at the same time as it says more about
what existed before written language, at least that is what I have
is enough to read a few lines she has written, easily recognizable
among thousands, to immediately understand this. Her language is so
unique that even the anti-Durassians can read a text without
realising she has written it, and say “But this is like Duras
(pronounced durá and not durass)”.
I was in a major writing period, I asked her to forbid me from
reading her texts because her language is so distinctive and
characteristic. This did not necessarily mean that it did not inspire
me during my work, rather the opposite.
critics considered, however, that Duras’ language was far too
complex and full of verbal tics, or that it contained too much
fiction and too little realism and psychology. Too much fiction for
the critics, quite simply. When one rejects Duras’ works, one also
reason I felt bound to Marguerite Duras was, above all, what she
brought to literature.
precisely? Well, it is the subject of the writing or talking, in
conversation or in the text, not to forget, something that drenches
us in a story and a space which overwhelms us as much as they
stimulate us. Always she presents polysemy, actual or potential. All
the time the text, even if it concentrates on the business at hand,
nevertheless can expand and take the reader into uncharted waters.
Duras undertook different kinds of journalistic work just as she
sometimes used different real events as a basis for her novels. But,
despite this, she always had a different preoccupation than the
strictly journalistic. Her project reached beyond all boundaries and
her texts took the reader closer to “unlimited reading, a reading
that does not stop at the end of the book.” This is in my view a
reading that is the opposite of merely a “reading
the other hand, I did not feel particularly at home in her inner
universe, that of colonial Asia, or the bourgeois, aristocratic
aesthetic, in fact the trappings of the bourgeois aristo whom Duras
would have become if she had the time and desire to.
these points I can say that I have not been a true “Durassian”,
as one might say a Proustian or a Bergmanian. This does not mean that
one cannot love them. One can really love Duras in particular,
without, for that sake, keeping to externals, but it is even better
if one can seek deep down, for the consistent aesthetic thread in her
from literature, which basically comprises everything, and the
liberation of the soul and the body, then perhaps madness
might act as a main line, is this not the lucidly experienced
suffering that leads to a madness which is never very far away?
of her themes are still topical, such as e.g. time and how people
spend their time. Another theme is that fear which is constantly
growing in our society at the beginning of the 21st
When I finally held
the book L’Amant in my hand, I sat down immediately to read
it in one sitting. I read it passionately with all my senses at full
stretch. Perhaps I read it in this way because we used to meet
regularly at that time; it was a period when we talked a lot,
especially Marguerite; I mostly listened. Sometimes she would
suddenly stop and burst out: “But don’t you have an opinion!”
The text of L’Amant was in some way familiar to me. I loved
that book which incidentally helped Marguerite Duras reach out to a
wider audience. I still love the book, a novel that has almost become
“the perfect book” in
the eyes of a publisher.
of her “followers” felt slighted by L’Amant, whereupon
some stopped reading her.
when I was re-reading some passages in L’Amant from the July
1984 edition, almost at the end my eye picked up the word peurait
which, of course, was corrected in the next edition (avoir
peur = be afraid, pleurer = weep). This could not have
been a typographical error on Marguerite’s part, as she did not use
a typewriter, at any rate not at that time.
think it is a beautiful word, “afraided”, she afraided. Of course
it should be that she wept. But I think it sounds fine, it fits into
the text. Immediately after this is: the girl was afraid. The lover,
he too was afraid. “Afraided” says more than merely being afraid,
it describes an attitude to life. Paradoxically enough, this does not
mean that one is cautious with one’s own clarity of vision but
rather the opposite, one chooses to be fully conscious of everything
on all levels, which may result in
a secretive air she could describe the feeling “of being afraid of
what one is oneself writing”. By this she meant that one can reach
beyond what one did not believe that one knew through the text, and
that one can discover things one previously was not aware that one
knew. This could happen after the writing, but only then, not even in
the drafting could you feel what was subsequently going to happen...
when I was writing down different variations of how thought may
appear, such as e.g. present, rapid, close, gone, slumbering... she
said to me that “I would not have written like that...” The
memory of these moments when we were not in agreement caused me to
realise that I miss our conversations, no longer being able to talk
to her. I was less “alone” when I knew her.
Now and then I think
about Marguerite Duras; either when I am reading something she has
written, or when I pass by her grave I remember that she once told me
how much she had wept when she was writing e.g. Le Ravissement de
Lol V. Stein or Le Vice-Consul. It was difficult to write
what she wrote, as this meant that she came closer to herself and the
pain she carried within herself, and as one became frightened by
writing the kinds of things that she wrote. When she wrote, she
discovered, you see, things that she never otherwise would have
touched upon either in her thoughts or in real life.
(English translation by Phil Holmes)