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Mon Charabia

Olivier Todd: Bad Duras, 4 March 1999

Marguerite Duras 
by Laure Adler.
Gallimard, 627 pp., frs 155, August 1998, 2 07 074523 6
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No More 
by Marguerite Duras.
Seven Stories, 203 pp., £10.99, November 1998, 1 888363 65 7
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... her Goncourt Prize and sold a million copies of her most conventional novel, The Lover (1984) – Marguerite Duras was a literary monster. Her personality and the legends about her have fascinated readers of everything from Elle to the Village Voice. Laure Adler’s biography, the best so far, proves that the required period of mourning is over. ...

History and Hats

D.A.N. Jones, 23 January 1986

The Lover 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray.
Collins, 123 pp., £7.95, November 1985, 0 00 222946 3
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Stones of the Wall 
by Dai Houying, translated by Frances Wood.
Joseph, 310 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2588 6
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White Noise 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 326 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 330 29109 2
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... Marguerite Duras describes a crowd in French Indo-China (in 1930): ‘The clatter of wooden clogs is ear-splitting, the voices strident, Chinese is a language that’s shouted the way I always imagine desert languages are, it’s a language that’s incredibly foreign.’ This impression is familiar to me, from National Service days in Hong Kong and the British New Territories ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: Marguerite Duras, 6 October 2016

... To interview​ Marguerite Duras, you had to speak Duras. ‘Durassien’ stood, then and now, for inscrutability. Her novels consist of a succession of paragraphs entire of themselves; in her plots everything happens at once or nothing happens. Her movies were about giving the viewer as little to see as possible, and all the better if that meant the screen went black for up to half an hour at a time ...

Signor Cock

Roy Porter, 25 June 1987

by Andrea Dworkin.
Secker, 259 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 436 13961 8
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... is only one simple alternative: women can fuck, or they can be free. Women who think otherwise (Marguerite Duras is singled out) are guilty of ‘capitulation’. Just about the only woman praised in this book is Joan of Arc, who, Dworkin assures us, contrary to Medieval chronicles, must have actually killed some men in battle. On the ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 28 January 1993

by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Megan Backus.
Faber, 150 pp., £12.99, January 1993, 9780571167906
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... spent a year on the best-seller list. They also suggest that it recalls the early Marguerite Duras. This I don’t quite see, although both writers are concerned with the formidable barriers of loneliness. Loneliness for Duras, however, is a personal disability which leaves her characters not ...


Yun Sheng: Mai Jia, 11 September 2014

Decoded: A Novel 
by Mai Jia, translated by Olivia Milburn and Christopher Payne.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £18.99, March 2014, 978 0 14 139147 2
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... age for publishing and reading in China. We got everything from Shakespeare and Cervantes to Marguerite Duras and Milan Kundera. Readers had been starved for more than two decades: some good books sold in their millions. García Márquez topped the list, and as a consequence influenced countless Chinese novelists – including Mo Yan, who confessed ...

Lights by the Ton

John Sturrock: Jean Echenoz, 18 June 1998

by Jean Echenoz, translated by Guido Waldman.
Harvill, 122 pp., £8.99, June 1998, 1 86046 449 1
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Un An 
by Jean Echenoz.
Minuit, 111 pp., frs 65, September 1997, 2 7073 1587 7
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... India in another – the descriptions of which are done by a parodist, a reader of Conrad or Marguerite Duras perhaps, not by a concerned traveller. But for as long as Echenoz remains at home, in Paris or the provinces, place stands out in his novels by its ordinariness, as a rather mucky environment, whether indoors or out, that badly needs the ...

A Simpler, More Physical Kind of Empathy

Lorna Sage: Haruki Murakami, 30 September 1999

South of the Border, West of the Sun 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill, 187 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86046 594 3
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill, 609 pp., £12, May 1998, 9781860464706
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... and intensify to the point where they start to resemble skinnings and stabbings of the self. Like Marguerite Duras in La Douleur, which she claimed was a wartime journal she found in a drawer, but had no memory of writing, Murakami lays claim to a share in others’ crimes against humanity. His character Okada becomes a kind of clairvoyant conscript, not ...

What is there to lose?

Adam Phillips, 24 May 1990

Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia 
by Julia Kristeva, translated by Leon Roudiez.
Columbia, 300 pp., $33.50, October 1989, 0 231 06706 2
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Surviving trauma: Loss, Literature and Psychoanalysis 
by David Aberbach.
Yale, 192 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 300 04557 3
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... prejudicial in the sense that she does not simulate incompatibilities. She reads Dostoevsky, and Marguerite Duras, and Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb – in three of the most brilliant chapters in her new book – after Freud but not for Freud. David Aberbach, by contrast, is oddly impressed by how much Great Writers in the past ...


Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... reminding how much they have contributed to its literature. Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bowen, Marguerite Duras, Martha Gellhorn, Natalia Ginzburg, Shirley Hazzard, Doris Lessing and many other women writers are here (but not Anne Frank or Hannah Arendt), and among the more unexpected selections are the reminiscences of Soviet women, collected, Studs ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg, 18 June 2015

by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... Penman. However, I’m not so sure Cronenberg’s filmic output is equal to that of Jean Cocteau, Marguerite Duras or Peter Handke. Part of the problem with creative polymaths is that on exposure to their work in a new medium the viewer, reader or listener can’t help assessing the extent to which their style and methodology has been directly ...

Such Genteel Flaming!

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Boat Rocker’, 13 July 2017

The Boat Rocker 
by Ha Jin.
Pantheon, 222 pp., £20, October 2016, 978 0 307 91162 9
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... writer, despite her excellent taste as a reader – she loved magical realism, Agatha Christie, Marguerite Duras and D.H. Lawrence. (‘If I could write a novel like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I would die happy,’ she often gushed. Of course, ditto for me.)If there’s a whisper of satire here it’s never amplified – and satire as a genre is more ...

Veni, Vidi, Vichy

Jean-Pierre Chapelas, 9 March 1995

Une Jeunesse française: François Mitterrand 1934-1947 
by Pierre Péan.
Fayard, 615 pp., frs 160, September 1994, 2 213 59300 0
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... or Gaullist or something similar. It was now that Mitterrand’s path crossed that of Marguerite Duras, a young writer of the brand-new Fourth Republic, who never subsequently made any mystery of the fact that in the year of grace 1944 she felt no scruples about torturing the imprisoned collaborators over whom she was watching. The political ...

En famille

Douglas Johnson, 16 August 1990

Little Gregory 
by Charles Penwarden.
Fourth Estate, 247 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 1 872180 31 0
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... prominent. As if there were not enough drama in Christine Villemin’s predicament, the novelist Marguerite Duras intervened with an extraordinary article. This was no sordid crime, she wrote. It was an act that only women could understand, whereby Christine, suffering in a society where men made all the laws, took sublime vengeance, like a modern ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... towards the French experimental novel but indifference to outmoded German ‘New Objectivity’. Marguerite Duras and Hélène Cixous get in, but not Vicki Baum nor Ayn Rand (hers particularly I find an extraordinary omission). Catharine Stimpson (last year’s MLA president) gets in on the basis of some feminist literary criticism and a ‘a lesbian ...

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