Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To their 'logical conclusion'

As soon as I finished reading The Lover, by Marguerite Duras (translated by Barbara Bray), I began it again. This was not out of any conscious intention to read it a second time, it just happened naturally, out of itself, out of the way of reading that the book had set going. And so, it was from the remarkable, evanescent brutality of the writing itself, rather than the easily sensationalised, easily exoticised, bare facts of the story, that I emerged for a minute, before deciding to resubmerge:

The story of my life doesn't exist. Does not exist. There's never any centre to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend that there used to be someone, but it's not true, there was no one. The story of one small part of my youth I've already written, more or less -- I mean, enough to give a glimpse of it. Of this part, I mean, the part about the crossing of the river. What I'm doing now is both different and the same. Before, I spoke of clear periods, those on which the light fell. Now I'm talking about the hidden stretches of that same youth, of certain facts, feelings, events that I buried. I started to write in surroundings that drove me to reticence. Writing, for those people, was still something moral. Nowadays it often seems writing is nothing at all. Sometimes I realize that if writing isn't, all things, all contraries confounded, a quest for vanity and void, it's nothing. That if it's not, each time, all things confounded into one through some inexpressible essence, then writing is nothing but advertisement. But usually I have no opinion, I can see that all options are open now, that there seem to be no more barriers, that writing seems at a loss for somewhere to hide, to be written, to be read. That its basic unseemliness is no longer accepted. But at that point I stop thinking about it.

Again: is it only through propinquity that Duras gets compared to Bernhard, but this time I recognised the same moment of realisation, where the narrator becomes aware of an unswerving, even ruthless power to determine:

Nothing escaped my notice -- or, at any rate, nothing essential. I decided how much streptomycin I needed,  not the doctors, though I let them continue in the belief that  it was they who made the decisions, because otherwise my calculations would not have worked out. I let my tormentors go on thinking that they decided what was to be done, whereas from now on it was I who decided. (Gathering Evidence)

Suddenly, all at once, she knows, knows that he doesn't understand her, that he never will, that he lacks the power to understand such perverseness.  And that he can never move fast enough to catch her. It's up to her to know. And she does. Because of his ignorance she suddenly knows: she was attracted to him already on the ferry. She was attracted to him. It depended on her alone. (The Lover)

And for all their complete difference -- the one driving in through the mind and at the mercy of the body, the other through the body and, perhaps, at the mercy of the mind -- this sentence from Duras, which could have been Berhard's:

How I managed to follow my ideas to their 'logical conclusion'.

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