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Marguerite Duras

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Title: Marguerite Duras  
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Subject: Éric Vigner, French New Wave, Moderato Cantabile, The Lover (Duras novel), Marie France
Collection: 1914 Births, 1996 Deaths, 20Th-Century Dramatists and Playwrights, 20Th-Century French Novelists, 20Th-Century Women Writers, Austrian State Prize for European Literature Winners, Burials at Montparnasse Cemetery, Cancer Deaths in France, Deaths from Esophageal Cancer, Elle Magazine Writers, French Erotica Writers, French Film Directors, French Memoirists, French Screenwriters, French Women Dramatists and Playwrights, French Women Film Directors, French Women Novelists, French Women Screenwriters, French Women Writers, Marguerite Duras, People from Ho Chi Minh City, Postmodern Writers, Prix Goncourt Winners, Women Erotica Writers, Women Memoirists
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Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras
Duras, 1993
Born (1914-04-04)4 April 1914
Saigon, Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam)
Died 3 March 1996(1996-03-03) (aged 81)
Paris, France
Occupation Novelist, playwright, filmmaker
Nationality French
Ethnicity French
Period 20th century
Genre Novel, drama, film making

Marguerite Donnadieu, known as Marguerite Duras (French: ; 4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996), was a French novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, essayist and experimental filmmaker. She is best known for writing the 1959 film Hiroshima mon amour, which earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards.


  • Biography 1
    • Youth 1.1
    • Career 1.2
  • Bibliography 2
  • Filmography as director 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6



Duras was born in Gia-Dinh (a former name for Saigon), Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam), after her parents responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging people to work in the colony.

Marguerite's father fell ill soon after their arrival, and returned to France, where he died. After his death, her mother, a teacher, remained in Indochina with her three children. The family lived in relative poverty after her mother made a bad investment in an isolated property and area of farmland in Cambodia. The difficult life that the family experienced during this period was highly influential on Marguerite's later work. An affair between the teenaged Marguerite and Huynh Thuy Le, a rich Sa Dec merchant, was to be treated several times (described in quite contrasting ways) in her subsequent memoirs and fiction. She also reported being beaten by both her mother and her older brother during this period.

At 17, Marguerite went to France, her parents' native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics. This she soon abandoned to concentrate on political science, and then law. After completing her studies, she became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party). In the late 1930s she worked for the French government office representing the colony of Indochina. During the war, from 1942 to 1944, she worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper to publishers (in the process operating a de facto book censorship system), but she was also a member of the French Resistance. Her husband, Robert Antelme, was deported to Buchenwald for his involvement in the Resistance, and barely survived the experience (weighing on his release, according to Marguerite, just 38 kg).

In 1943, for her first published novel Les Impudents, she decided to use as pen name the surname of Duras, a village in the Lot-et-Garonne département, where her father's house was located.


Duras was the author of many novels, plays, films, interviews, essays and short fiction, including her best-selling, highly fictionalized autobiographical work L'Amant (1984), translated into English as The Lover, which describes her youthful affair with a Chinese man. This text won the Goncourt prize in 1984. The story of her adolescence also appears in three other forms: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover, produced by Claude Berri and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, was released to great success in 1992. The Sea Wall was first adapted into the 1958 film This Angry Age by René Clément, and again in 2008 by Cambodian director Rithy Panh as The Sea Wall.

Other major works include Moderato Cantabile, also made into a film of the same name, Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, and her play India Song, which Duras herself later directed as a film, also titled India Song (1975). She was also the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.

Duras's early novels were fairly conventional in form (their 'romanticism' was criticised by fellow writer Raymond Queneau); however, with Moderato Cantabile she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the Nouveau roman French literary movement, although she did not belong definitively to any group. Many of her works, such as Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein (1964) and L'Homme assis dans le couloir (1980) deal with human sexuality.[1] Her films are also experimental in form; most eschew synchronized sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story; spoken text is juxtaposed with images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less indirect.

Despite her success as a writer, Duras's adult life was also marked by personal challenges, including a recurring struggle with alcoholism. Duras died of throat cancer in Paris, aged 81. Her funeral, held in a packed Saint-Germain-des-Pres, was highlighted with several musical recordings including a piano version of India Song. She is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

She was noted for her command of dialogue.[2]



Filmography as director


  1. ^ Alex Hughes, "Erotic Writing" in Hughes and Keith Reader, Encyclopedia of contemporary French culture, (pp. 187–88). London, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0415131863
  2. ^ "Marguerite Duras".  

Further reading

  • Crowley, Martin (2000). Duras, Writing, and the Ethical. ISBN 9780198160137.  
  • Adler, Laure. (1998), Marguerite Duras: A Life, Trans. Anne-Marie Glasheen, Orion Books; London.
  • Glassman, Deborah N. (1991). Marguerite Duras: Fascinating Vision and Narrative Cure. Rutherford London: ISBN 9780838633373,  
  • Hill, Leslie (10 July 1993). Marguerite Duras: Apocalyptic Desires. London, New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415050487.  
  • Schuster, Marilyn R. (1993). Marguerite Duras Revisited. New York: Twayne. ISBN 9780805782981.  
  • Vircondelet, Alain (1994). Duras: A Biography. Normal, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. ISBN 9781564780652.  

External links

  • Marguerite Duras at the Internet Movie Database
  • "In Love with Duras" an essay in The New York Review of Books, by Edmund White, 26 June 2008
  • "The Timeless Marguerite Duras": an article in the TLS by Emilie Bickerton, 25 July 2007
  • Les Écrits de Marguerite Duras
  • Marguerite Duras at Find a Grave
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