Notebooks of Marguerite Duras
P.O.L. has published an edition of the notebooks of Marguerite Duras, someone who I have only recently begun to read. I feel ambivalent about reading ostensibly private material, although, truthfully, if it’s an author I care about, I invariably seek out their notebooks or journals. I suppose once an author opens up something about themselves, which is what writing for a public space amounts to, it’s difficult for people who become attached to that writer to respect a boundary that has already been significantly blurred by the author.
Cahiers de la guerre et autres textes is a collection of notebooks that Duras wrote between 1943 and 1949. Diary-like entries recounting important events from childhood are mixed with early drafts of novels, particularly Un Barrage and La Douleur; there are also some mostly unpublished short stories. The editors, Sophie Bogaert and Olivier Corpet, have done a fine job in making sense of what must have been an unruly heap of papers. They have chosen to publish the notebooks in simple novel-size form, rather than reproduce them more faithfully, as a lavish photograph album. What would this encourage, they ask in the preface, but a fetishized engagement with each idiosyncratic scribble of Duras’s pen? Instead we have just a few photographs of the original notebooks and the far more useful textual reprint, completed by a carefully compiled index. This format forces an even more impartial and critical eye on the quality, free from the Duras aura, of the material.