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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

JUDGEMENTS Marguerite Duras, La Douleur, translated by Barbara Bray (Fontana) £3.95 pb.
Marguerite Duras, Outside, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Fontana) £3.95 pb.

Both these books are masterpieces - one recognizes it instantly - and both have been admirably rendered into English by their respective translators. La Douleur, a collection of four biographical narratives backed up by two short stories, all set in wartime and immediate post-war Paris, begins with Duras' account of her unspeakably painful wait for her husband to return from the concentration camps. She does not know whether he is alive or dead, whether he will return at all. Finally, when he does return, he is in such a denatured condition that the horror does not end. Slowly, painfully, he is nursed back to health. He begins to eat with appetite, to talk. Significantly, he does not blame anybody: he 'was still able not to accuse anyone except the governments that come and go in the history of nations.' It is the consequences of this refusal to judge, to apportion blame (excepting the will to govern), which take us to the heart of La Douleur.

One of the things Duras indicates throughout is how people are all too willing to dispense judgement. This is not only true of S.S. officers. After the Liberation, the new French officials (suddenly appearing from nowhere in smart blue uniforms) and even the Resistance members (including Duras herself) turn on their previous persecutors with an efficiency and ferocity which is too close to a duplication of Nazi values for comfort. A number of telling details reinforce our sense of this: like the ...

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