Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

"Coming into Being": Mourning, Adolescence and Creativity in Duras's the Lover

Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

"Coming into Being": Mourning, Adolescence and Creativity in Duras's the Lover

Article excerpt

Marguerite Duras's The Lover, a fictionalized memoir of her troubled adolescence in Indochina, is narrated from the points of view of age and youth. Though the "older" voice gives perspective and shapes the representation of the youthful self, this is not simply a dialogue or contrast between youth and age. They are intertwined in ways that suggest equally that as the artist recreates the teen Duras, the latter has given birth to the voice of the artist. The novel chronicles loss [of family, innocence, a great love), mourning and discovery. Her recreation of what she has lost with frequent references to death suggest a process of remembering and mourning in her writing. Psychoanalyst Henry Krystal describes adolescence as a transition into adulthood and a time when an individual develops the ability to grieve (63). In this portrait of her development as an adolescent, Duras chronicles her growing capacity to grieve as she tells of individuating herself from her anguished family. Her increased independence coincides with discovering she wants to be a writer, a vocation which provides her the means to frequently revisit this period of trauma and loss in her oeuvre. (1) Though a time of loss, Duras also recreates it as the original context for developing her creative imagination, her ability to relate to others outside her family, and to experience differentiation and sexuality, which all help her transition towards an adult identity. This essay explores the ways Duras's narrative voices reveal or enact the process of growth and mourning and how these concepts are inextricably bound together and mutually generating in her text.

When Duras set out to write The Lover in 1983, she was recovering from a near brush with death. She had been an alcoholic most of her life, and it began to imperil her health. She was hospitalized, and with the help of her close companion, Yann Andrea, she stopped drinking and recovered for a time. At this point she was almost 70 years old and would live another twelve years (until 1996) and write some of her most recognized work. In interviews late in her career (1970s and 1980s) she expressed a need to connect with her audience, and a need to risk exposing intimate details of her life to establish this connection and further motivate her writing (Armel 70, 92, 94). The Lover itself provides clues as to the urgency of her purpose in its writing. She, as narrator, says previously she has suppressed her past. "I've written a good deal about the members of my family, but then they were still alive, my mother and my brothers. And I skirted around them, skirted around all these things without really tackling them.... 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" (7-8). One senses a need to explore this territory again, better equipped with the will, the insight and writing skills than what she had in earlier narratives like The Sea Wall. Her elder narrative perspective provides psychological consequences the younger could not know--the link between her love for her family and for her lover, for instance. She also gives readers a sense that this past still continues to rule her life and will probably not be fully resolved.

In the books I've written about my childhood ... I wrote about ... our love for one another, and our terrible hatred too, in that common family history of ruin and death which was ours whatever happened, in love or in hate, and which I still can't understand however hard I try, which is still beyond my reach, hidden in the very depths of my flesh, blind as a newborn child.... I'm still there watching those possessed children, as far away from the mystery now as I was then. I've never written, I thought I wrote, never loved, though I thought I loved, never done anything but wait outside the closed door. (25)

Her art and her life are bound to her experiences in this family, long dead, that she is still trying to understand

The context of trauma from which this story has been told, and Duras's obsessive returns to it throughout her work, underlie her incorporation of the responses of spliting and self-numbing into her narrative, reflecting the trauma survivor's struggle "with how to cohere and how to absorb and in some measure confront what one as had thrust upon one, what one has been exposed to" (Lifton 163-64). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.