Thursday, November 18, 2010

Emily L, Marguerite Duras

I, sadly, am always too quick to forget about the magic of a Duras novel. The pure simple beauty of every sentence and statement. The lines of her prose are so tightly written. Small, short, and spoken in the compact nature of an understanding dialogue. Duras writes about love, obsession, creativity, and the painful nature of truth.

In Emily L, Duras tells the story of a couple, the narrator and the husband. Both are writers. The husband is suffering a dry spell in his writing. The narrator wants to write a novel about their affair. It is never directly stated, but it is made clear the husband feels this is nonsense. He is keeping her from creating. In a way, forcing her to suffer a writers block just as he is suffering.

The two are away on vacation and enjoying an evening at the bar. They watch a couple at the other end of the bar. The novel follows the events of what we all do: creating the stories of strangers. The narrator begins to wonder about the male and female. Even starts to create a history of the two.

The title character, Emily L, is the name given to the unknown woman. She is married to a sea captain. They are traveling the world to keep themselves busy. They have hit a rough patch in their marriage because Emily L wishes to write poetry. It is suggested that Duras is creating a history to Emily Dickinson. Even using a slight different version of 'A Certain Slant of Light' to make clear Dickinson is meant to be suggested.

Emily's husband is not able to understand the poetry. He feels Emily is trying to prove she is smarter than him. Also, the husband finds himself jealous of the poems. Eventually, the narrator tells us of an affair Emily L had with one of the men working at the Inn. At this point, the reader begins to realize what has taken place. We have to take steps back and look at the novel's progression.

The narrator wishes to create a story about a relationship. She wants to write a story about her relationship. Her husband is keeping her from doing so. What she does is create the story vocally. She places parts of her own story (maybe all of her own story?) onto these two strangers. As a reader, we're never fully aware of the fact and the fiction. Duras is writing about writing.

Also, Duras is writing about male control. The narrator's husband wishes her to not write just as he is not writing. Emily L's husband is wishing her to not write her poetry because he can't understand it. And, I believe Duras makes slight reference to Dickinson because Emily Dickinson's art was controlled by a man, too.

The last paragraph of Duras' Emily L is quite beautiful. It speaks to the nature and style of writing. It speaks to writing with full honesty. To never editing or removing the pieces we write out because we are then only destroying the truths we could have offered. This is Duras' style. And why her work continues to be my muse.


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