Category Archives: Marguerite Duras

For years and years I thought about the light through the window, the light through the shutters. It seemed a pity not to reveal how it was. That light and the noises of the city outside. Although I was in complete privacy, no one in the street knew I was there. I was in bed with a man, my lover, yet at the same time I was also in the street. It felt like being in front of an audience. I was in public but at the same time totally private, completely hidden. I saw the street, but they didn’t know I was there. It’s a bit like the process of writing. The writer’s viewpoint is lost and taken over by the work itself.

Duras

‘Time seems shorter when one is talking’, said the girl.
‘And then afterwards, suddenly, much longer.’
‘Yes, like another kind of time. But it does one good to talk.’
‘Yes, it does one good. It is only afterwards that it is rather sad: after one has stopped talking. Then time becomes too slow. Perhaps one should never talk.’
‘Perhaps’, said the girl after a pause.
‘Only because of the slowness afterwards: that was all I meant.’
‘And perhaps because of the silence to which we are both returning.’
‘Yes, it is true that we are both returning to silence. It seems as though we are already there.’

–Duras, The Square (tr. Pitt-Rivers and Morduch)

Some people are like that

She says, ‘Nothing can come from outside you and me to teach us.’
‘No knowledge, no ignorance?’
‘None. Some people are like that – closed – they can’t learn from anyone. Us, for example – we can’t learn anything, neither I from you nor you from me, nor from anyone, nor from anything, nor from what happens. Like mules.’
No matter how many centuries of oblivion pile up over their existences, their ignorance will have existed just as it is at that moment, on that date, in that cold light. They realize this and are delighted.
Also, that in a thousand years’ time this day will have existed for a thousand years to the day. And the ignorance of the whole world about what they’ve said today will have a date too. Without words, without ink to write it down or a book to read it in, it will have a date, a place in time. And they’re delighted about that too.
She says, ‘And so everything there is is here, in the room.’ And with the palm of her hand she indicates the tile floor, the sheets, the light, the bodies.

– Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

During the night, still a long time before dawn, while the walkers are going along the beach, she asks him a question she’s been wanting to ask him for several nights.
‘What you meant was that paying for time spent in this room was paying for time lost, wasted. Wasted by the woman?’
At first he can’t remember, then he does.
‘Wasted by the man, too. Time that he had no further use for.’
She asks him what he’s talking about.
He says, ‘Like you, about our affair, about the room.’
‘The room is no use now either,’ he says. ‘Everything in it has stopped.’
He must be on the wrong track. He can’t ever have thought it would be of any use. What use could it have been?
She says, ‘You said the room was to keep people here, with you.’
He says that applied to young male prostitutes, but not to this case.
He has stopped trying to understand. So has she.
She says, ‘It was also so that they had to go, had to leave you, when the time was up.’
‘Perhaps. But I was wrong, I didn’t want anything.’
She looks at him a long while, her gaze taking him and keeping him shut up inside her till it hurts. He knows it’s happening. And also that it’s nothing to do with him.
She says, ‘Perhaps you’ve never wanted anything.’
Suddenly he’s interested. He asks, ‘Do you think so?’
‘Yes. Not ever.’
He’s the sort of man who doesn’t notice whether something is said by himself or by the other person, doesn’t notice who answers questions, even if they are put by himself.
‘It’s possible. Never wanted anything.’
He waits, thinks, says, ‘Perhaps that’s what the matter is. I never wanted anything, ever.’
Suddenly she laughs. ‘We could leave together if you like. I don’t want anything anymore either.’
He laughs too, but with a sort of uncertainty, of apprehension, as if he had just escaped from some danger, or from some piece of good fortune he hadn’t asked for.

– Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

A woman’s voice

She wants him to remind her what she said just now when she woke up. She sometimes speaks when she’s still half-asleep, and then when she’s fully awake can’t remember what she said. But this time she recalls quite clearly a woman’s voice similar to her own, and some complicated, painful words torn out of her own flesh, words which she hadn’t quite understood and which made her cry.

– Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

Marvellous impossibility

The evening after she goes, you tell the story of the affair in a bar. At first you tell it as if it were possible to do so, then you give up. Then you tell it laughingly, as if it were impossible for it to have happened or possible for you to have invented it.
The next day, suddenly, perhaps you’d notice her absence in the room. The next day, you’d perhaps feel a desire to see her there again, in the strangeness of your solitude, as a stranger herself.
Perhaps you’d look for her outside your room, on the beaches, outside cafés, in the streets. But you wouldn’t be able to find her, because in the light of day you can’t recognize anyone. You wouldn’t recognize her. All you know of her is her sleeping body beneath her shut or half-shut eyes. The penetration of one body by another – that you can’t recognize, ever. You couldn’t ever.
When you wept it was just over yourself and not because of the marvelous impossibility of reaching her through the difference that separates you.

– Duras, ‘The Malady of Death’ (trans. B. Bray)

Untitled.

He’d asked his father, implored him to let me keep me with him, close to him, he’d told him he must understand, must have known a passion like this himself at least once in his long life, it couldn’t be otherwise, he’d begged him to let him have his turn at living, just once, this passion, this madness, this infatuation with the little white girl, he’d asked him to give him time to love her a while longer before sending her away to France, let him have her a little longer, another year perhaps, because it wasn’t possible for him to give up this love yet, it was too new, too strong still, too much in its first violence, it was too terrible for him to part yet from her body, especially since, as he the father knew, it could never happen again.
   The father said he’d sooner see him dead.
   We bathed together in the cool water from the jars, we kissed, we wept, and again it was unto death, but this time, already, the pleasure it gave was inconsolable. And then I told him. I told him not to have any regrets, I reminded him of what he’d said, that I’d go away from anywhere, that I wasn’t responsible for what I did. He said he didn’t mind even that now, nothing counted any more. Then I said I agreed with his father. That I refused to stay with him. I didn’t give any reasons.

– Marguerite Duras, The Lover (trans. Barbara Bray)