Marguerite Duras: A Life

Laure Adler, Author, Anne-Marie Glasheen, Translator
Laure Adler, Author, Anne-Marie Glasheen, Translator University of Chicago Press $35 (416p) ISBN 978-0-226-00758-8
Reviewed on: 12/18/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Paperback - 978-2-07-041472-7
Hardcover - 627 pages - 978-2-07-074523-4
Hardcover - 978-2-07-045868-4
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Duras (1914-1995) is a figure of continuing interest to Francophiles, readers interested in women's writing and devotees of modern films like Hiroshima mon amour. With verve and poignancy, this bestselling 1998 French biography (available for the first time in English) reveals Duras as an intellectual diva and difficult woman pursued by the ghosts of her past and a lifelong call to write. Historian and journalist Adler is able to present this complex picture through her extensive use of intimate sources (including Duras's son Jean and his father, Dionys), as well as her understanding of the high drama of Duras's life. From her childhood in colonial Indochina to her involvement in the Resistance and the development of French postwar cinema and literature, Duras (born Marguerite Donnadieu) was at the center of 20th-century French history; Adler balances her subject and her times with a familiarity that draws readers in and makes reading particularly pleasurable. Moreover, Adler interweaves her discussion of Duras's writing with her life--and how each influenced the other. For example, on lover Dionys's infidelity, Adler writes, ""Like all women, Marguerite knew the man she was living with was being unfaithful. Like all women, she knew even though she didn't want to know,"" a situation that is mirrored by Duras in her work The Little Horses of Tarquinia. Similarly, details of Duras's happy young motherhood and even her dark last years reveal her humanity and make this biography as much a tale of a person as of a cultural icon. Duras once said of herself, ""I'm not sure I could put up with Duras""; readers may find themselves agreeing halfway through the book, but that won't stop them from reading to the end anyway--to catch all the jewels Adler strews in their path. The book's cover, with a photo of Duras, beautiful and luminous, will inflame readers' attention. Illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.)
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