(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The Crushed Nettle” recounts a confrontation between a factory worker, Lucien, who is having his lunch, and a stranger who wears a light-colored suit and smokes English cigarettes. The story centers on two important symbols: the nettles and a hole. This story contains not only a symbol system typical of Duras’s work but also an important treatment of silence and the inherent tensions of conversation.

In the beginning of the story, the nettles are described as growing in the spaces between the paving stones and “against the fences around the wooden houses: an invasion.” The nettles claimed the spaces between the paving stones that had been brought there in years past, the city government apparently having abandoned the idea of paving the road. The nettles are also providing a feeding spot for the flies in the heavy and warm summer air. This backdrop frames Lucien, the stranger, the ten-year-old boy, and his baby brother, around noon, near a dump.

The road that is not completely paved leads to a hole “overgrown with a tangle of old iron and nettles.” The juxtaposition of nature and civilization is brought to the reader’s attention with the explanation, “The city ends where the weeds and old iron begin. The war has left it behind.”

Duras suggests that the stranger in the light-colored suit is like the city that has been left behind. The stranger is separate from the world of pain—of nettles—that is familiar to...

(The entire section is 458 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Adler, Laure. Marguerite Duras: A Life. Translated by Anne-Marie Glasheen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Cohen, Susan. Women and Discourse in the Fiction of Marguerite Duras: Love, Legends, Language. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.

Crowley, Martin. Duras, Writing, and the Ethical: Making the Broken Whole. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Duras, Marguerite, and Xaviere Gauthier. Woman to Woman. Translated and with an afterword by Katherine A. Jensen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.

Glassman, Deborah. Marguerite Duras: Fascinating Vision and Narrative Cure. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991.

Günther, Renate. Marguerite Duras. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2002.

Hill, Leslie. Marguerite Duras: Apocalyptic Desires. London: Routledge, 1993.

Hofmann, Carol. Forgetting and Marguerite Duras. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1993.

Schuster, Marilyn R. Marguerite Duras Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Selous, Trista. The Other Woman: Feminism and Femininity in the Work of Marguerite Duras. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

Winston, Jane Bradley. Postcolonial Duras: Cultural Memory in Postwar France. New York: Palgrave, 2001.