Closest to the meaning of life

The material life
DURAS: Isn't being able to explain what remains largely unexplained, perhaps what comes closest to the meaning of life?


It's summer, and I'm writing a stage text about menopause with an actor. When we applied for writing support last year, I felt ready to work my way into this under-communicated theme. I was also in love. Now I have a love affair. I'm angry, sorry, jealous, envious, even bitter. I also feel an incomprehensible desire and at the same time feel old. Outside there is sudden rain and sudden sun and sudden rain again. And soon it's harvest. I will be 45 in October.

Then I get an email asking if I want to attend a launch talk in August about the newly translated The material life by Marguerite Duras together with translator Silje Aanes Fagerlund and author Hans Petter Blad. I have read Duras since my twenties. I have written the main essay on one of her novels, but I have not read The material life. We will talk about this book, what Duras means to us and why we should still read her, translate her. I take pleasure in waiting for the freshly translated translation to appear in the mailbox, as if to visit a friend I haven't seen in a long time.

Entry to an Authorship

"A book in the middle of the fiction and diary, the fragment and the bullet point, between the dialogue and the confession," it said in Libération when the book came out in France in 1987, and I wonder if this is a book for those who have never read Duras before. Whether it is so understood that it must be read as an extension of her writing, or whether it can create curiosity and inputs into the novels, plays, and films? I think so.

Marguerite Duras

Here are texts about the mother that we know from novels like The lover og Dam to the Pacific Ocean, about childhood and growing up in Indochina, about the post-colonial, about living, about writing, about her much younger gay lover, Yann, about alcoholism, about talking publicly, about meat, about driving a car. And of course she writes about desires as well as about social injustice.

About childhood and childhood in Indochina, about the post-colonial,
about living, about writing, about alcoholism, about talking publicly, about meat, about driving a car.

The material life has come about through Duras' conversations with writer and actor Jérome Beaujour. Later, the conversations, or the verbally delivered material, were reviewed and edited by both. Still, there is a remnant of the oral and poignant, which is not found in her novels. Some of what might have been ironed away is left behind and gives a quality of its own because we so rarely get to see what is usually ironed, the slightly more imprecise, or the not so good phrase.

As I read The material life, I remember why Duras is a writer I will come back to again and again. The texts are spacious with a span. They are private at the same time as they enter the world, as in this one entitled "He Who Shut Off the Water", where a man from the waterworks is told to turn off the water of a poor family.

Marguerite Duras and Jerome Beaujour

"He saw it was full summer. He knew it was a very hot summer, because he experienced it himself. He saw the one and a half year old child. He had been ordered to turn off the water, and he did. He obeyed the work instructions; he turned off the water. He left the woman without water neither to wash the children with nor to give them drinks.

That night, this woman and her husband took the two children with them and laid down on the rails of the TGV train. "

The unexplainable

The reading of The material life makes me start reading The lover again, and I suddenly write on the stage text about menopause. I think that mirror neuron- the theory that is so clear in the theater, that the spectator himself can experience or almost experience what the actor performs on stage, this also applies to the written. Writing can create such a strong room for action that space also arises in me, the reader, not only as recognition, but as a hitherto undiscovered mental or emotional place. The reading becomes an active act that moves me, a metaphysical experience, and this summer a rescue, not because the text comes with advice and guidance, but because Duras herself has done a great deal of work that goes beyond her books, outside conventions, morals, obvious phrases, beyond the obvious. Duras dares to be banal, hungry, pathos-filled and self-solemn, and she approaches the border zones, the impossible, the incomprehensible and the paradoxical in a natural way. Or in her own words from the text "Paris": "Not being able to explain what remains largely unexplained is perhaps what comes closest to the meaning of life in its broadest sense of this expression."

Duras is both uncompromising and ageless. In this book, Duras is even light and funny and turns on all my delusions about getting older. She writes about the desire she believes writers elicit. As a seventy-year-old, she received a letter from a man: "I'm coming to make love to you on Monday, January 23 at 9pm. XNUMX o'clock in the morning. 'She forgot the letter, but he came and lay outside her door, and I laugh out loud as I read.

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