I've just begun Mechthild Cranston's anthology In Language and In Love Marguerite Duras: The Unspeakable. Introducing Inger Gilbert's essay, "Imagination Into Myth: Love (Language) As Madness In Plato and Duras," Cranston writes:
"Assuming that, like Beckett's, Duras' is a world of 'Imagination dead,' Gilbert shows how the Beckettian imperative to 'imagine' nevertheless floods that world with an outpouring of 'love' not sanctioned by Christian, Romantic, or Freudian tradition. Seeking its roots in Plato's Phaedrus, Gilbert defines Duras' love as divinely inspired madness, 'fraught with the highest bliss.'
'Fraught,' because for Duras as for Plato, says Gilbert, love, like language, is both 'the measure and the prison-house of human identity.' We fall in love because we remember an always already lost and perfect original beyond. Their wings clipped, Duras' lovers have nothing but language and image to (at)tempt transcendence: Hiroshima mon amour. Language itself, however absurd, thus becomes illumination from within, its own protagonist that falters, according to Gilbert, not because of a lack (Lacanian or otherwise), but because of a fullness of meaning beyond words. Writing, then, becomes the touchstone (but also the tombstone) of the unnamable other 'authenticated' in death: the translatio of an always already prior but ultimately irretrievable text. 'Lost beyond living and telling,' Dachau and La Douleur, the seduction of a name: 'Marguerite Duras: The Unspeakable.' In language and in love. In love and madness."
In language and in love.
In love and madness. . . .
In Marguerite Duras: A Life, Laure Adler tells us: "All through her life, Duras was afraid she might go mad, yet often she courted madness; she decided to befriend it rather than make of it an enemy to be defeated. 'To be one's own object of madness and not become mad, now that would be a most wonderful misfortune,' she wrote in Green Eyes. Very much later, when it was already too late, she realized her mother was mad. And as though to exorcize her own share of madness, she admitted it and wrote it."
I don't know what this means. I don't know why I'm transcribing these texts here. I believe I could be working on something, but I don't know what.
Perhaps I am simply meditating on the ongoing mystery of my potential Problematics (Lance Olsen's term (Melanie Rae Thon calls it "Lines of Inquiry") or, in other words, the lens through which I will read next year). Perhaps, here, I am making my reading "problems" public. Bringing them to you. Asking for help.
Duras: "I've talked a lot about writing. But I don't know what it is."
Other books in my recently acquired stack of Duras criticism:
- Carol Hofmann's Forgetting and Marguerite Duras
- Trista Selous's The Other Woman: Feminism and Femininity in the Works of Marguerite Duras
- Lisa F. Signori's The Feminization of Surrealism: The Road to Surreal Silence in Selected Works of Marguerite Duras
- Sharon Willis's Marguerite Duras: Writing On the Body
- Susan D. Cohen's Women and Discourse in the Fiction of Marguerite Duras: Love, Legends, Language
- Marilyn R. Schuster's Marguerite Duras Revisited
Do you notice what I notice? It is the first thing I notice. That women write about Duras. Women write about Duras' women. We want to know them, understand them. We have things to say, things to offer, about them, about her. We matter. She matters. And this is not unimportant.
Duras: "Now, of all the characters in my books, Lol V. Stein comes top of the list. It's a funny thing. She's the one who 'sells' the best. My little madwoman."
My favorite Jenny Boully book is [one love affair]*, one of her lesser known and much less critically discussed titles from Tarpaulin Sky, which draws continual inspiration from Duras. Here's some of the jacket copy:
"Told through fragments that accrete through uncertain meanings, romanticized memories, and fleeting moments rather than clear narrative or linear time, Boully explores the spaces between too much and barely enough, fecundity and decay, the sublime and the disgusting, wholeness and emptiness, love and loneliness in a world where life can be interpreted as a series of love affairs that are 'unwilling to complete.'"
Another contemporary writer, Amina Cain, has a wonderful book of stories that also interweaves text from Duras (as well as Clarice Lispector and Hannah Weiner). This book is called Creature, and it was published by Danielle Dutton at Dorothy.
Women. Women everywhere.
Duras: "What I haven't said is that all the women in my books, whatever their age, derive from Lol V. Stein. Derive, that is, from a kind of self-forgetting. They all see quite clearly and lucidly. But they're imprudent, improvident. They all ruin their own lives."
Women's words surrounding. Dripping down from the crying sky, drenching, permeating the air like magnolia blossoms, fragrant, saturating and seeping. Demanding to be heard. Read. Told.
Duras: "We never throw out flowers in this house. It's a habit, not a rule. Never, not even dead ones; we leave them there. There are some rose petals that have been in a jar for forty years. They are still very pink. Dry and pink."
When is the last time you looked at a flower? When is the last time you held one in your hands, touched its petals with your fingertips? Brought it to your nose and closed your eyes? Inhaled?