PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Peter Scupham remembers Anthony Thwaite in 'Chimes at Midnight' Sinead Morrissey spends A Week in Gdańsk Rebecca Watts talks with Julia Copus about Charlotte Mew Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski evoke Arseny Tarkovsky and his translator Peter Oram Frederic Raphael sends a letter to William Somerset Maugham
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review New Issue

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 ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image