For many years neglected by readers and critics outside France, Marguerite Duras (dew-rah) attained a position of preeminence among postwar French writers late in her life. The daughter of teachers, she was born Marguerite Donnadieu in French Indochina (now South Vietnam). She began her studies at the Lycée de Saigon in 1924; in 1931, she entered the Faculté de Droit and the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris, where she obtained degrees in 1935. Her early novels attracted little attention, but she reached a world public by writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’s filmHiroshima mon amour. Her fame increased with the publication and translations of later works, her conversations with Xavière Gauthier, and her recollections of the war years and the Resistance movement; her prizewinning novel The Lover established her reputation as one of the major French writers of the twentieth century.
Duras’s development as a writer may be viewed as a progression through three phases. Her early works reflect the strong influence of such American authors as Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck: Events are narrated clearly and consecutively, characters are introduced and developed conventionally, and dialogue develops the movement of the story. There is a certain flatness and matter-of-factness in the presentation of the fictional events.
Though she chose never to commit herself to any sort of literary movement, maintaining always her personal identity by extending new avenues of development for fiction in her individual way, Duras’s works written in her second phase are closely allied with those of the French New Novelists Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Michel Butor. In The Square, she explores the use of dialogue alone to reveal...
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