Duras: A Biography

Duras: A Biography

by Alain Vircondelet
     
 
This is the first full-length biography of one of the best-known and most influential French writers of our time, as celebrated for her films (Hiroshima Mon Amour) as for her novels (The Ravishing of Lol Stein, The Lover). It takes Duras from colonial Indochina (where she was born in 1914) to wartime France, through the intellectual skirmishes of the 1950s and leftist

Overview

This is the first full-length biography of one of the best-known and most influential French writers of our time, as celebrated for her films (Hiroshima Mon Amour) as for her novels (The Ravishing of Lol Stein, The Lover). It takes Duras from colonial Indochina (where she was born in 1914) to wartime France, through the intellectual skirmishes of the 1950s and leftist movements of the 1960s, up to the present time. An autobiographical writer by nature, Duras has poured her exotic life into her books, and Vircondelet is the first to separate fact from fiction, leading us to a greater appreciation of her inimitable fiction. Although it gives a full, chronological account of Duras's life and work, Duras is not a conventional biography. "In order to give an exact account of her life, her inner workings, " Vircondelet explains in his preface, "one needs to acquire and rediscover a secret, a kind of alchemy, the nature of her 'fluent writing, ' as she calls it." Employing a kind of "fluent writing" himself, Vircondelet brings a rare empathy to his task, allowing him to discover secret connections between the life and work. Both a mesmerizing biography and an innovative work of literary criticism, Duras is a bold and unforgettable achievement. First published in France in 1991, the book has been updated by the author for this English translation. It is illustrated with 37 photographs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A childhood spent in colonial French Indochina, where she was born in 1914; a member of the Resistance in occupied France during WWII; a belated victory over alcoholism-Marguerite Duras's autobiographical novels and films, most famously The Lover and Hiroshima Mon Amour, certainly draw upon a life rich with incident. Yet Parisian academic Vircondelet's account is overwritten and hagiographical. He symbolizes the elemental source of Duras's work as ``the Nightship,'' a recurrent image; elsewhere, he describes her work as ``this cry springing from her, an ancient sound, echoes reverberating from all of the cries haunting her.'' Such passages strive for incantatory power but at times overshadow the otherwise noteworthy incidents they seek to illuminate. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Library Journal
This is not the first biography of Duras by Vircondelet, who updated his original 1991 French version (Duras: Biographie, Lacombe, St. Laurent, Quebec; Editions Franois Bourin, Paris) for this translation. Vircondelet's attempt at Duras's "impossible biography" is really a portrait of the writer as she emerges from her works: "Duras's story, her life," he states in the preface, "is to be found...in the reflections sent back into the books by the mirrorlike facts." Ne Donnadieu in 1914, Duras spent her youth in colonial French Indochina; in France, she joined the French Resistance as well as the Communist Party. Though she is best known as the author of Hiroshima mon amour, which was filmed in collaboration with Alain Resnais, and her 1984 autobiographical novel L'Amant (The Lover), her literary production is voluminous, including novels, film scripts, and published interviews. Readers aware of the subjective nature of autobiographical works and hoping to find in this book objective, critical, and historical perspectives may need to await another biography of Duras.-Danielle Mihram, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles
Donna Seaman
Duras--novelist, playwright, and screenwriter--is France's most influential and controversial living writer. Best known, perhaps, for the film "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and the award-winning novel "The Lover", Duras has a penchant for autobiography, however cryptically or impressionistically rendered. Vircondelet, one of Duras' first serious critics and staunchest admirers, has written a purposefully literary biography that attempts to emulate Duras' lean and piercing prose. This approach is, for the most part, engagingly lyrical. In spite of some hazy patches, Vircondelet succeeds in capturing Duras' unfailingly subversive and defiant personality; recording the main events in her unusual, hectic, and productive life; and explicating the symbolism and persona she has evolved over her 50-year career. From her feral, soul-shaping Indochina childhood during the 1920s--the source of her creativity--to her harrowing years in the Resistance, involvement with the Communist Party, and knockout bouts with alcoholism, Duras has thrived on scandal, paradox, and ambiguity, all the while driven by an "ardent, absolute, frantic need to write." When Vircondelet draws aside the veil of Duras' fiction, he uncovers an author every bit as untamed, daring, alluring, and invincible as her confounding heroines.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564780652
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
11/28/1994
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
378
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.39(d)

Meet the Author

Alain Vircondelet, ecrivain et universitaire, est certainement de tous les chercheurs qui se sont penches sur la vie et l'1/2uvre de Marguerite Duras, le pionnier des etudes durassiennes en France. Premier etudiant a l'avoir fait etudier en Sorbonne (1970), auteur de la premiere monographie publiee sur l'ecrivain (Seghers, 1972), auteur de la premiere biographie publiee en France et dans le monde, (Bourin /Julliard, 1992), directeur de deux Colloques internationaux de reference (Cerisy-la-Salle et ICP), President d'honneur de l'Association Marguerite Duras fondee en 1997, et President du prix Marguerite Duras, compose d'un jury d'exception, il lui a consacre pas moins de six ouvrages. Il est egalement le biographe reconnu d'Albert Camus (Prix Mediterranee de l'Essai, Fayard), de Saint-Exupery (Prix Paris-Match, Fayard), de Seraphine de Senlis (Prix Bel Ami et Grand Prix de la Ville de Limoges, Albin Michel), de Francoise Sagan (Flammarion), de Charles de Foucauld (Le Rocher), de Blaise Pascal(Flammarion) et d'Arthur Rimbaud (Le Rocher). Tous ses travaux sont traduits en plusieurs langues.

Thomas Buckley is an independent scholar and writer living in Maine. He previously taught anthropology and American Indian studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and coedited "Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation "(California, 1988).

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