Thursday, 20 August 2009

Marguerite Duras's Trilogy

Trilogy is a collection of three of Marguerite Duras’s novella-length stories. It was originally published by John Calder in 1977, and we are hoping to republish it under our Oneworld Classics imprint next year. The three tales are all are concerned in some way with personal relationships and change, with the main characters in each working towards a sometimes uncomfortable conclusion or confrontation through the (often accidental) fortuitous intervention of a stranger. Each of them were written between 1955 and 1962, the period in which Duras began to produce more experimental works and become more involved in writing for theatre and film.

Indeed, the first story, The Square (which Calder published separately in 1959), was adapted with little change into a play. Consisting almost entirely of a dialogue between two strangers, with the only breaks in their speech occurring when Duras wishes to draw attention to outside events – the setting sun, a child asking for milk– in order to mark the time and setting and for the characters to react to them, it is an inherently theatrical piece. A travelling salesman meets a young woman in a town square. They strike up an intense conversation about themselves – their lives, lowly place in society, hopes, fears and dreams. The girl is a maid, who clings to one hope – finding a man at the local Dance Hall who will make her his wife and rescue her from this monotonous, isolated existence. The salesman has been reduced to peddling goods across the country. Unlike the girl, his dreams are mostly connected to the past, not the future. He relies upon an opportunity presenting itself in order to lift himself of his current drudgery. The two strangers reveal their private emotions and history to one another, finding sympathy and understanding even when they are not entirely in agreement.

Duras’s tendency to evoke details from her own life may be apparent in Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night. Duras’s recurring problems with alcohol may have contributed to the characterisation of Maria, a depressed, alcoholic woman, who has discovered her husband’s affair with her friend, finds a fugitive killer hiding on a roof. The man has killed his young wife and her lover. Extraordinarily, she tries to rescue him. The results of her actions are combined with the ongoing tension between herself, her husband and his new lover, as they struggle to deal with her addiction, illicit sexual attraction and the problems in the marriage.

In The Afternoon of M. Andesmas, the wealthy Andesmas waits for an acquaintance to visit him. He hears the sound of music and dancing coming from the village square, a gathering that is contrasted with the sheltered life of the old man. Imagining the villagers below and influenced by two visitors, he begins to draw surprising conclusions about the villagers and his relationship with his beloved daughter.


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