“It was the men I deceived the most that I loved the most.” - Marguerite Duras
Marguerite Duras, which is the nom-de-plume of Marguerite Donnadieu was born on April 4th, 1914, in Gia Dinh, Cochinchina, Vietnam. She died on March 3rd 1996, Paris, France. She is a French novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and film director, internationally known for her screenplays of the classic “Hiroshima mon Amour” (1959) and “India Song” (1975). The novel “L’Amant” (1984; The Lover; film, 1992) won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1984.
Duras spent most of her childhood in French Indochina, but at the age of 17 she moved to France to study at the Sorbonne, from which she received licences in law and politics. From 1935 to 1941 Duras worked as a secrerary at the ministry of colonies. During World War II, she was a member of French Resistance; she had also joined the Communist Party. After the war she condemned its policies and was expelled in 1950 for revisionism. Although Duras had helped writers opposing Nazis during the war, she was also accused of being a member of literary committee controlled by the Germans. She began writing in 1942. “Un Barrage Contre le Pacifique” (1950; The Sea Wall), her third published novel and first success, dealt semi-autobiographically with a poor French family in Indochina. Her next successes, “Le Marin de Gibraltar” (1952; The Sailor from Gibraltar) and the experimental “Moderato Cantabile” (1958), which were more lyrical and complex and more given to dialogue.
Duras’ splendid instinct for dialogue led to the production of the original screenplay for Alain Resnais’ critically acclaimed film “Hiroshima mon Amour”, about a brief love affair in postwar Hiroshima between a Japanese businessman and a French actress. This is now a classic film exploring the themes of war, love, memory and oblivion. She directed as well as wrote the 1975 film adaptation of her play “India Song”, which presents a slow, atmospheric portrayal of the wife of the French ambassador in Calcutta and her several lovers. Some of Duras’ screenplays were adaptations of her own novels and short stories.
Duras turned regularly to a more abstract and synthetic mode, with fewer characters, less plot and narrative, and fewer of the other elements of traditional fiction; her name was even associated with the nouveau roman (“new novel”) movement, though she denied such a connection. The semi-autobiographical story of “L’Amant”, about a French teenage girl’s love affair with a Chinese man 12 years her senior, was revised in the novel “L’Amant de la Chine du Nord” (1991; The North China Lover). Among her other novels were “L’Après-midi de Monsieur Andesmas” (1962; The Afternoon of Monsieur Andesmas), “Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein” (1964; The Ravishing of Lol Stein), “Détruire, dit-elle” (1969; Destroy, She Said), “L’Amour” (1971; “Love”), “L’Été 80” (1980; “Summer 80”), and “La Pluie d’Été” (1990; Summer Rain). Collections of her plays were included in “Théâtre I” (1965), “Théâtre II” (1968), and “Théâtre III” (1984).
Despite her success as a writer, Duras’ adult life was also marked by personal challenges, including a recurring struggle with alcoholism. Duras died of throat cancer in Paris, aged 81. She is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.