Marguerite Duras’s life story is well known, having provided the material for so much of her fiction. She was born in 1914 in Gia Dinh, Vietnam. Both her parents were teachers; her father died in 1921. Her early years were peripatetic; her mother eventually settled with her three children, in 1925, in Cambodia, building a house on a rice plantation that was four hours away from the nearest village. Subsequent years were spent paying for this house and seeking further funds to build a dam to protect their constantly flooded paddies. Duras went to study in Saigon at the age of fifteen and two years later, in 1931, left for Paris. The “Cahiers rose marbré”, the first notebooks in the collection, provide an account of this adolescence, written like a journal entry. It is notable just how much autobiography is present in her novels, especially in Un Barrage. Like her protagonist, Suzanne, we learn of a first relationship with a rich, indigenous man. There follow the beatings at the hands of her mother and elder brother. It wasn’t an unhappy period, it was savage, and Duras retells it through simple documentation, seemingly in an attempt better to make sense of her frame of mind at the time: “I believed what they called me. I don’t any more. I suffered like I was damned . . . enduring it like it was my fate”.
more from the TLS here.