February 22, 2008

Marguerite Duras, The Malady of Death, trans. Barbara Bray (Grove, 1986).

Billed as a novel on the cover, but weighing in as a 60 page chap using a big balloony font to get that much, The Malady of Death still seems substantial. Posing existential/absurdist questions of the divide between partners, and the impossibility of bridging that gap, the stripped down language of the text reads more lyric than cold. The text itself ends with Duras' notes on how this text might be adapted to the stage or screen, making it also seem more of a treatment than "novel".

And then she is silent.

You're afraid she'll go to sleep again, you rouse her and say: Go on talking. She says: Ask questions then. I can't do it on my own. Again you ask if anyone could love you. Again she says: No.

She says that a moment ago you wanted to kill her, when you came in off the terrace and into the room for the second time. That she knew this in her sleep, from the way you looked at her. She asks you to say why.

You say you don't know why, that you don't understand the malady you suffer from.

She smiles, says this is the first time, that until she met you she didn't know death could be lived (44-5).



Blogger konrad said...

I think there's a form in French lit called the "récite" which doesn't really have a parallel in English -- or does it? Not really a "novella" -- a kind of reflective narrative genre.

Blanchot's "Death Sentence" is related. He also wrote on "Malady" in an essay, "The Community of Lovers." Worth looking up (thanks to D. Brazil for alerting/lending/gifting me these)

Blogger Mr. Horton said...


Thanks for the suggested reading list.

I'll have to see if my library has the French version of the Duras work to see how it was originally billed. My guess is that you're right. Roman is the usual French word that gets translated as novel. Either way, calling it a novel in English seems more marketing than reality on the part of the publisher.




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