The Daisy Chain

  • James S. Williams


Nothing could be tougher than Duras. Dur dur! That is the implication of Danielle Bajomée’s 1989 study, Duras ou la douleur,1 and it underlies most of the major criticism on Duras’s work, from Maurice Blanchot and ‘the solitude of an authentic dialogue’2 to Jacques Lacan and ‘the silent nuptials of empty life with the indescribable object’;3 from Carol Murphy and absence and forgetting as alienation and disjunction,4 to Julia Kristeva and the melancholia of non-catharsis.5 It has even been proposed that La douleur (1985) represents the fundamental truth of a corpus of aporia and aphasia that had lain dormant since the publication of Duras’s first novel, Les impudents (1943), written in Paris during the dark days of the Occupation.6 Each of the above critics defines pain differently, of course, yet the question must be asked: how could a corpus of such sustained energy and consistently diverse range—over ninety books, plays and films between 1940 and 19957—have generated this almost uniform response? Moreover, how could such an ominous sounding thematics account for the current, unprecedented popularity of Duras, once a ‘difficult’ writer for a chosen few but now one of France’s most widely translated authors, in danger even of not being taken seriously enough? Not only has she been comprehensively pastiched by (among others) Patrick Rambaud,8 but in 1992 a journalist sought to expose what he considered her over-inflated worth by sending a sample of the 1962 novel, L’après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas, to her main publishers, Editions de Minuit, Gallimard and POL (it was unanimously rejected as ‘not of the highest literary quality’9).


Sexual Desire Sexual Object Male Homosexuality High Literary Quality Female Protagonist 
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Notes to Chapter 1

  1. 3.
    Jacques Lacan, ‘Hommage fait à Marguerite Duras, du ravissement de Lol V. Stein’, Marguerite Duras [1975], ed. François Barat and Joel Farges, Paris, Albatros, 1979, pp. 131–37.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Carol J. Murphy, Alienation and Absence in the Novels of Marguerite Duras, Lexington, KY, French Forum, 1982.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Bernard Alazet, ‘L’embrasement, les cendres’, Revue des sciences humaines, Vol. 73, No. 204 (October—December 1986), pp. 147–60; p. 152.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    For Duras in 1971, a progressive loss of identity was ‘the most enviable experience one could know’. See Bettina L. Knapp, ‘Interviews with Marguerite Duras and Gabriel Cousin’, The French Review, Vol. 44, No. 4 (1971), pp. 653–64; p. 656.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    See Jean Narboni and Jacques Rivette, ‘La destruction, la parole’ (interview with Marguerite Duras), Cahiers du Cinéma, No. 217 (November 1969), pp. 45–57.Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    See Pamela Tytell, lacan, freud et duras’, Magazine littéraire, no. 158 (March 1980), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    See Jean-Louis Sous, ‘Marguerite Duras ou le ravissement du réel’, Littoral, No. 14 (1984), pp. 59–70.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    See Patricia Fedkiw, ‘Marguerite Duras: Feminine field of hysteria’, Enclitic, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1982), pp. 76–86.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    See Mary Lydon, ‘Translating Duras: The seated man in the passage’, Contemporary Literature, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1983), pp. 259–75, and ‘The forgetfulness of memory: Jacques Lacan, Marguerite Duras, and the Text’, Contemporary Literature, Vol. 29, No. 3 (1988), pp. 351–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 30.
    See Michèle Druon, ‘Mise en scène et catharsis de l’amour dans Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein, de Marguerite Duras’, The French Review, Vol. 58, No. 3 (February 1985), pp. 382–90, where Druon emphasises Lol’s ability to perceive the ‘theatricality’ of love.Google Scholar
  11. 32.
    See Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier, ‘The Disembodied Voice: India Song’, Yale French Studies, No. 60 (1980), pp. 241–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 33.
    See Sharon Willis, Marguerite Duras: Writing on the Body, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    See Marcelle Marini, Territoires du féminin. Avec Marguerite Duras, Paris, Minuit, 1975.Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    See Susan D. Cohen, Women and Discourse in the Fiction of Marguerite Duras, Oxford, Macmillan, 1993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 38.
    See Susan Rubin Suleiman, ‘Nadja, Dora, Lol V. Stein: women, madness and narrative’, Discourse in Psychoanalysis and Literature, ed. Shlomith RimmonKenan, London, Methuen, 1987, pp. 124–51; p. 146.Google Scholar
  16. 50.
    See Susan Husserl-Kapit, ‘Marguerite Duras’ (interview with Marguerite Duras), Visions Magazine (Spring 1993), pp. 8–12.Google Scholar
  17. 53.
    See Marie-Paule Ha, ‘Duras on the Margins’, The Romanic Review, Vol. 83, No. 3 (1993), pp. 299–320.Google Scholar
  18. 54.
    See Claire Cerasi, Marguerite Duras: de Lahore à Auschwitz, Paris, Geneva, Champion-Slatkine, 1993, p. 188.Google Scholar
  19. 55.
    Jacqueline Aubenas, ‘Entretien avec Marguerite Duras’, Alternatives théâtrales, No. 14 (March 1983), pp. 11–15; p. 14.Google Scholar
  20. 57.
    See Judith Still, ‘Literature’, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: A critical dictionary, ed. Elizabeth Wright, Oxford, Blackwell, 1992, pp. 231–32.Google Scholar
  21. 58.
    See Janine Ricouart, Ecriture féminine et violence. Une étude de Marguerite Duras, Birmingham, AL, Summa, 1991.Google Scholar
  22. 61.
    See, for example, Aliette Armel, ‘Nouveau Roman et autobiographie’, in Marguerite Duras et l’autobiographie, Paris, Le Castor Astral, 1990, pp. 25–36,Google Scholar
  23. and Raylene O’Callaghan, ‘The art of the impossible’, Australian Journal of French Studies, No. 25 (1988), pp. 71–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maurice Cagnon, ‘Marguerite Duras: willed imagination as release and obstacle in Dix heures et demie du soir en été’, Nottingham French Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1977), pp. 55–64; p. 61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 72.
    Leo Bersani, The Freudian Body. Psychoanalysis and Art, New York, Columbia University Press, 1986, pp. 114–15.Google Scholar
  26. 107.
    See Mary Ann Caws, A Metapoetics of the Passage: Architextures in Surrealism and After, Hanover, London, University of New England Press, 1981, pp. vi—vii.Google Scholar
  27. 108.
    Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, New Haven, London, Yale University Press, 1979, p. 53.Google Scholar
  28. 109.
    See John Guillory, Poetic Authority: Spenser, Milton, and Literary History, New York, Columbia University Press, 1983, p. 169.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James S. Williams 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • James S. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

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