6 May 2018

Marguerite Duras: La Douleur | The War: A Memoir (1985)

Although first published in 1985, most of this book was probably written around 1944. Duras calls the first part, 'La Douleur', a Journal, and it is certainly written impressionistically, in the form of a diary, with 'Robert L.' used for her husband Robert Antelme, and 'D.' for Dionys Mascolo, her lover at the time and later her second husband. But here she has, as it were, returned to her husband now that he is missing, taken to camps by the Nazis. The account records her anguish and her and her friends' attempts to find him. He is eventually found alive, but only just, and recovery will take some time.

'Monsieur X. dit ici Pierre Rabier' is a detailed account of Duras's dealings with Georges Delval (here fictionalised to 'Pierre Rabier'), who no doubt pretended to know more about the capture of Antelme than is true, and gave the appearance of being a member of the Gestapo but was most probably just an informer whom the Nazis found useful. He may have had a sexual relationship with Duras, but certainly Dionys Mascolo had a child by his 'beautiful' wife Paulette Delval, which Duras died knowing nothing of. Here, 'François Morland' is of course François Mitterand, Duras's friend and Resistance fighter.

'Albert des capitales' is a painful account of the torturing of an informer who is stripped naked and savagely beaten. The beating is led by 'Thérèse', about whom Duras says 'c'est moi'. The truth of this remains unknown.

'L'Ortie brisée' is a fictional, rewritten short story interesting to me in that it doesn't so much present an alternative version of an event, but a recycling of it, as if Duras were throwing out her trash, but retaining any possibly useful elements.

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