Category Archives: Marguerite Duras

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)


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)