Midnight Tales of Great Men: Error, Intertextuality, and écriture courante

  • James S. Williams


Eté would seem to be the epitome of Duras’s notion of écriture courante. It embraces in one continuous stream of prose all that passes through Duras’s mind during the summer of 1980 which she spent at Trouville. Included are meticulous observations of the changing seascape, personal thoughts on major political events then unfolding such as the shipyard strikes in Gdansk, and the account of a relationship supposedly being played out on the beach between a holiday-camp monitor and one of her young charges, a boy with grey eyes. This free-play of matters personal, social, political and fictional expands with each new chapter and appears to be taking Duras to the very limits of authorial self-dispossession and exteriority. Suddenly, however, in chapter 7, the narrator (je) invokes a young man (vous) (p. 63) who, as we learn a little later, has just arrived to stay in her apartment (p. 86). Three parallel and interrelated movements of desire are thus created: the female narrator and her male lover in ‘la chambre noire’ unable to consummate their ‘illusory’ love (p. 87), the monitor’s strange and all-consuming obsession with the boy as ‘witnessed’ by the first couple from their window, and finally, the fantastical tale spun by the monitor about the adventures of a little boy, David, pursued by the shark, Ratekétaboum, which has just eaten his parents after the sinking of their ship named, appropriately enough in view of Gdansk, the ‘Amiral Système’.


Dark Night Dead Point Narrator State Meticulous Observation Imaginary Identification 
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Notes to Chapter 4

  1. 21.
    See Carol J. Murphy, ‘Duras’s “Beast in the Jungle”: Writing Fear (or Fear of Writing) in Emily L.’, Neophilologus, No. 75 (1991), pp. 539–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 59.
    See Sean Hand, ‘Missing You: Intertextuality, transference and the language of love’, Intertextuality: theories and practices, ed. Judith Still and Michael Worton, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1990, pp. 79–91, for a Lacanian account of transference as an intertextual relation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James S. Williams 1997

Authors and Affiliations

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

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