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Signs of Love: Duras’s Minimal Ways Verena Andermatt Conley D URAS WRITES UNDER THE SIGN of loss and deliverance. She dissolves, liquefies and, at times, reduces differences in love and writing. Deliverance, a birth that frees in death, that would con­ join opposites in one word, the gong vide' that resonates in all of her texts, is never quite here, always to come. We can but approach this absolute, through a generalized playing with words. This leads to a para­ dox: Duras insists on an undoing of differences to reach the word, the thing, and laments the impossibility of such a gesture. Her texts mourn­ fully tend toward what has already been lost. Loss is originary. The story in Duras is always the same: it tells of love, passion and desire; of birth and death. Throughout her lengthy writerly career, she searches for a technique more and more adequate to that same story. In the earlier fiction, liquefaction, an undoing of differences, was linked especially to cinema. The night of cinema invaded diurnal life with its barrages and harsh separations, with its differences and injustices. Hollywood clichés had been used to bring about the deliverance of the protagonists of Un barrage contre le Pacifique and Le Marin de Gibral­ tar. Duras is obsessed with the figure of love, as a force undermining reason, undoing convention. The individual, oppressed by the state and social system, finds true love and accedes to a desire which, following a new convention, is always a desire in death. Under the impact of psycho­ analysis and the popularization of Bataille’stheories of eroticism,2Duras continues to trope into night and death on her amorous journeys, in a way both mythic and archaic. A thematic undoing of selfis accompanied by both a questioning of representation and Duras’s own changing defi­ nition of writing. Duras’s subversive writing arguing for the triumph of freedom and desire over the constraints of state and society—one in politics with her involvement in the communist party—makes her cross paths with a literary and theoretical current that advocates the undoing of repression through avant-garde poetics. Duras advocates literature of myth where archaic forces erupt in constituted symbolic language with its corresponding genres. Much of her iconoclasm is related to her own anarchic communism, her love for the world that transcends objects and opens to something universal. Hers is a desire for something fundamenVOL . XXIX, No. 3 101 L ’Esprit Créateur tal yet bottomless, for a center without center and an infinitely receding horizon. Duras searches for the Minimal Unit. She wills to write the thing itself, magma, lava, boue, stripped of decor and ornament. Hers is a universe of progressive liquefaction—inner and outer, through her own bouts with alcoholism—oceanic, yet regulated by a cadence, by a return­ ing trait that gives it form and keeps the text from disappearing into night, madness. Carried by avant-garde movements of the seventies3that relayed the new novel with playful linguistic configurations and generators, Duras adopts a certain psychoanalysis and its “fundamental truth,” or myth of the primal scene. Many of her recent texts stage variants of an “originary” scene, while Duras, as high priestess, reenacting her own perpetual fort/da with the text, reinscribes bits and pieces, des restes, remainders, from previous texts into new ones. Different from Henry James, a novelist sheboth likes for his technique and rejects for his ideol­ ogy of castration, she does not titillate the reader by hiding the threads of her creation but, to the contrary, with increasing narcissistic pleasure, displays them. From her novels, her romans américains to her récits and adaptations, with obsessive rigor and an incapacity to let go of her own creations, she does abandon generic labeling, even that of récits, and with less and less to quote, shifts back and forth from one medium to another, from novel to film, to theater, subverting all laws of genre and gender. Duras makes films with outtakes or images wasted from the pre­ vious ones, writes texts disseminating and annulling words and names from others. She undoes some of the basic laws of filmmaking, of theater...


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