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At the Sharp End of Waiting: A Study of La Douleur by Marguerite Duras1 Élise Noetinger Ce livre n'est pas un livre. Ce n'est pas une chanson. Ni un poème. Ni des pensées. Mais des larmes, de la douleur, des pleurs, des désespoirs qu'on ne peut pas encore arrêter ni raisonner. Des colères politiques fortes comme la foi en Dieu. Plus fortes encore que cela. Plus dangereuses parce que sans fin. —Marguerite Duras, Ecrire (Paris: Gallimard, 1993), 74 ALTHOUGH DURAS HAS BEEN, over the past 20 years, a key author for critics interested in the study of femininity, the attitude and declarations of the author herself can lead to a certain confusion. Indeed, she defined with accuracy what she meant by exploring a feminine territory of writing when she referred to "organic" writing, a "zone obscure," a writing that would reject "plagiarism."2 Jacques Lacan, Danielle Bajomée, Trista Selous, Marcelle Marini, Emma Wilson, Leslie Hill, James Williams, Stephanie Anderson, Janine Ricouart, to cite a few, have attempted, with various degrees of success, to define the territory of textual femininity.3 Sharon Willis refines a definition of Durassian feminine writing when she relates it to the Lacanian notion of "Unreal": "It is neither Reality, nor History, nor a Text. The Real designates that which is categorically unrepresentable, non human, at the limits of the known. It is emptiness, the 'zero point' of death, the proximity of feminine jouissance."4 We do not intend here to develop another study of femininity with reference to La Douleur; my purpose rather is to analyse what could be qualified as féminine in Duras' account of her husband's return from Buchenwald. What does she give us to read and to see that could be essentially feminine? It seems necessary to insist on these notions of "reading" and "seeing," as they combine the double question raised by the bilingual title of the present collection: Ecritures féminines de la guerre/'Feminine Representations of War. From representation to writing, the space of creation is unfolded, a symbolic space, a narrative space, a reading space and a metaphoric space that suspends direct reference in order to allow interpretation.5 To what extent does femininity give this account a different vision of war from that of Robert Antelme, Primo Levi or Jorge Semprun, for instance?6 Why is it not a testiVol . XL, No. 2 61 L'Esprit Créateur mony, a record, a diary or a salvation movement without which life would not have been possible? Clearly La Douleur, published in 1985 shortly after the highly praised L'Amant, is a problematic text. It is not widely studied, considering the plethora of critical works devoted to Duras. Leslie Hill, in Apocalyptic Desires, gives a factual study of the text and pays helpful attention to the various "états du texte" (123-35). Except for a few occasional references in studies on pain in Duras' work, such as that of Bajomée, on body and scream in Willis' analysis, it is hard not to notice the critical void that surrounds this text. It is not a new phenomenon: when La Douleur was first published in its current state in 1985, generic questions (what is this text?), ethical questions (what is her right to write this?) and emotional questions (how could she do this to Robert Antelme, her former husband with whom she had maintained very good contacts?) were raised: "Pourquoi a-t-elle décidé, dix ans après "Pas mort en déportation" (la publication d'un premier état du texte dans Sorci ères en 1976), et quarante ans après les faits, de publier ce livre? Il est dédié à Nicolas Régnier et Frédéric Antelme, le fils de Robert et Monique. Voulaitelle léguer et transmettre une partie de son histoire et celle de son ancien mari à la famille de celui-ci? (...)"7 I would like to argue that the obscenity of war as represented and written by Duras lies less in the obvious images of pain than in the means of expression that frame her writing. The text seems entirely based on the notion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 61-74
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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