In her introductory notes for The War: A Memoir, Duras informs the reader that she found the memoir in her cupboards and has no recollection of having written it; she simply recognizes her own handwriting. The memoir is a powerful statement of the pain of waiting, loving, and enduring.
During the war years, Duras struggled between conflicting passions for her husband and for her soon-to-be lover, Dionys Mascolo. Both of these men were working within the French Resistance, and she documents the tension she felt as she met with a German representative who was her source of information about her husband’s fate. The complete memoir of the exchanges between Duras and the German official is a separate section of The War.
The War tells of the ways in which Duras survived as she waited. One strategy she used to keep her sanity was to dedicate all of her energy to her work. She documented refugees and deportees as they came through Paris, all the time seeking news of her husband. She tormented herself with visions of her husband shot and decaying in a ditch, a vision she knew was altogether possible, in fact probable.
One powerful and important message within the memoir is the insight offered into human nature. The French after liberation were not, to paraphrase Duras, satiated with violence; many sought satisfaction through making the “enemy” suffer. At a center in which she worked she sawA prisoner who’s a priest [bringing] a German orphan back to the center. He held him by the hand, was proud of him, showed him off, explained how he’d found him and that it wasn’t the poor child’s fault. The women looked askance at him. He was abrogating to himself the right to forgive, to absolve, already . . . without any knowledge of the hatred that filled everyone, a hatred terrible yet pleasant, consoling, like a...
(The entire section contains 487 words.)
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