The War

ISBN: 1565842219
ISBN 13: 9781565842212
By: Marguerite Duras Barbara Bray

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Biography Fiction France French History Literature Memoir Memoirs Non Fiction To Read

About this book

One of France's greatest novelists offers a remarkable diary of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II and of its eventual liberation by the Allies. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the liberation, this extraordinary diary by the author of The Lover is "a haunting portrait of a time and place" (New York Times).Written in 1944 and first published in 1985, Duras's riveting account of life in Paris during the Nazi occupation and the first months of liberation depicts the harrowing realities of World War II-era France "with a rich conviction enhanced by [a] spare, almost arid, technique" (Julian Barnes, The Washington Post Book World). Duras, by then married and part of a French resistance network headed by François Mitterand, tells of nursing her starving husband back to health after his return from Bergen-Belsen, interrogating a suspected collaborator, and playing a game of cat and mouse with a Gestapo officer who was attracted to her. The result is "more than one woman's diary...[it is] a haunting portrait of a time and a place and also a state of mind" (The New York Times).

Reader's Thoughts


This is the third time I have read a book by Duras and said it is the best book I have ever read. I am astonished and destroyed. Despite the fact that the English publishers did everything in their power to make no one want to read it, by changing the title shamelessly in order to fit into the memoirs market. The real title should be translated--so I am told--Pain or Suffering. I didn't like the story from her communist period. I also had some problems with the following one, about the small Jewish girl, though it was beautiful. But these are maybe 5% of a book containing some of the best writing I have ever read. Perfectly flawed. I'm sure I'll say that again about her. She says of the first piece that it makes her ashamed of literature. That is so true. It is literary truth, not truth in literature. The portrait of her husband and his return from Dachau. Yes. That. That that that. It is Night. It is Better than Night.


Almost immediately, I started to imagine one aspect of my review of this bk: "Anything I write about this will trivialize it. Giving this a rating will trivialize it." It begins w/ a diary of her anguish as she awaits the return of her husband, "Robert L." (Robert Anselme) from the concentration camp(s) that he's been put into after being caught as a Resistance member. The uncertainty, Has he been shot?, Has he been left in a ditch?, is maddening. The struggle for resolution, to learn about his whereabouts. Later in the bk (& earlier in the story) she describes her interactions w/ the Gestapo agent who'd arrested her husband in the 1st place. Eventually, it's her job, as a Resistance member as well, to identify this man & have him executed or, as it turns out, arrested & tried. Each autobiographical tale & the sparse fiction inspired by real experiences of the Resistance to Nazi occupation of Paris in the early 1940s is stunning in its directness, in its sad educational value. Now I reckon I must read Anselme's own bk, "The Human Race" (in translation) - an outgrowth of the concentration camp experiences he barely survived.

Deborah Biancotti

Read this *in French* for my HSC (I certainly couldn't pull off a French reading now - & frankly, I kinda couldn't pull it off then, either) & hated it for its self-indulgence & scatology. Reading *about* the book now makes me wish I hadn't had that negative first experience. It's quite possibly too much for an Australian seventeen year-old with minimal knowledge of European wars to really get this book. I wish I could mark this both as 'read' AND 'to read', because I suspect my next reading will be far more fruitful. Whenever that eventually happens (no rush ... plenty of time on this one).


This is an extraordinary book in which Duras expertly conveys the thoughts and feelings associated with her experience as a member of the French Resistance during WWII---thoughts and feelings that, if not for this book, I would have thought incommunicable. I've never read the extremes of human emotional experience---fright, angst, confusion, doubt, sorrow, panic, madness--- captured so accurately and compellingly. The book is comprised of 6 stories, 4 non-fiction, 2 fiction. The non-fiction stories are simply absorbing. In the first, Duras waits second by second, day after day, week after week, to hear word of her husband, a member of the Resistance who was arrested and sent to a German concentration camp. In the second, she recounts the delicate dance she performed in which she parried the advances of a Gestapo officer while keeping him close enough to mine him for information. The third is about her role in torturing an informer, and the fourth is about her conflicted feelings about an informer who is more simpleton than traitor.It is a brief book (159 pages). The material is fascinating, the writing extraordinary. I strongly recommend The War, A Memoir by Marguerite Duras.

Miriam Nickerson

This story, focused on a woman waiting for the possible return of her husband after the liberation of the camps, is a very different view of the Holocaust. Did he survive? Is he returning? Where? How? When? What will it be like? Beautiful language.


The first 160 pages or so are autobiographical. The rawness and immediacy kept me reading about Duras's life as the Occupation of Paris closes down. Part of the French Resistance, Duras awaits the return of her husband from Bergen Belsen and nourishes him slowly back to health. And tells him she wants a divorce - life happens. The story of the torture of a known informer is disturbing, gut wrenching, and it conveys the multiplicity of feelings and motivations that can sweep away people who for years have lived through, fought through and survived a war. The final two short stories didn't pack the same punch.


Page 42 ... incredibly intense so far. The first part was amazing, but the other, shorter pieces seemed uneven and a bit scattered; some were first person memoir, and others were fiction, or at least fictionalized. There was no continuity and not enough context, at least for me. I lost the sense of this being one woman's story.

Angélique Moreau

Moi qui n'ai jamais été durassienne, du moins si je me base sur mes lointains souvenirs de lycée, je suis restée ébahie par ce texte. Je suis même heureuse de l'avoir lu à l'âge adulte, car je pense que si j'avais alors la sensibilité assez à fleur de peau pour en comprendre le poignant, je n'aurais jamais pu en percevoir les enjeux réels, et ce qu'il révèle sur la moralité de celui qui défend son pays en temps de guerre.Les nouvelles formant cet ouvrage sont précédées de quelques notes de l'auteur, qui nous informe s'il s'agit là d'une fiction, de «littérature» ou bien de la description autobiographique d'une torture quotidienne: l'attente du retour du mari, de Robert Antelme, des camps.Dans cette description à valeur historiographique, deux choses semblent pour moi être à retenir.D'abord la description du soin donné par Marguerite et ceux qui l'entourent de cet homme revenu des camps malade et sur le point de mourir. Ces soins quotidiens qu'elle prodigue, ces détails corporels et anatomiques extrêmement précis, cette manifestation putride de la douleur qui reste au fond du corps de l'homme; ce ne sont pas là des choses que l'on peut lire tous les jours dans des récits traitant de résistance. Ce combat simple du corps pour la vie défait la résistance de toute idéologie et s'en fait même le symbole. Ces hommes rapatriés ne sont réduits qu'à leur propre corps, le dernier bastion de leur résistance dans ce monde.Et c'est cette idée si fortement ressentie à la fin de ce premier chapitre qui teinte les autres textes, et nous fait prendre conscience de cette zone morale douteuse dans laquelle naviguent les résistants.Assassinats, traque, trahison et surtout torture, physique et en particulier mentale, sont leurs armes quotidiennes contre l'ennemi, l'ennemi omniprésent, tout autour et pourtant sans visage(s). Où est la moralité dans le combat pour la vie? Quelle est la valeur de la vie dans un combat politique ?


Marguerite Duras is a strong woman who lived through WWII, these short stories are autobiografical; She writes about nursing her first husband after he got back from the camps in one, her involvement in the paris restitance, and her nazi admirer in others. She writes in a simple way that is gripping and faces her readers with the choices she had to make, the tension she lived with in these extreme situations between life and death, resistance and occupation, loved ones and enemies... Her tales of courage and compromise make it an intense and meaningful read.

Nicole Marble

This nearly unknown book is a powerfully written look at life in France during the Nazi occupation. The author was a well known French writer who kept a running account of her experiences as people try to adapt to horrible circumstances and go 'underground' to fight the enemy. Powerful and clear. A must read.


Since 9/11, there has been much debate about whether torture is justified. Its apologists in the Bush-Cheney administration were eloquent about why it can sometimes be necessary. We were frequently told about ticking time-bombs and the threat of a mushroom cloud over an American city. Some horrifying stories surfaced from people who had been tortured at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. But, and it just occurs to me now to think how odd this is, I don't recall reading one straightforward account told from the torturer's point of view. If you're curious, you can read one here. Marguerite Duras was a member of the Resistance in wartime France. In Albert des Capitales, one of the pieces in this book, she describes in her usual matter-of-fact way an incident that occurred a few days after the Liberation. She and the other members of her cell are hanging around when a waiter comes running in and says that there's a guy at his bistro who's an informer. Everyone in his home town knows he is. But they'll have to move fast and grab him before he disappears.So they rush into the café and arrest him. He's an overweight, unhealthy-looking guy in his 50s. He looks kind of dirty and unwashed. They make him empty his pockets. There's a notebook with names and addresses, and every so often the notation ALBERT DES CAPITALES. They want to know what this means. The guy thinks, or pretends to think, and then he says, oh yes, he's a waiter at another café, Les Capitales. He has a drink there sometimes on the way home. Okay, says the leader of the Resistance cell, this must be his contact. We need to start rolling up the network. He immediately sends three people over to arrest Albert, but they come back empty-handed. He left days ago. They figure they'll interrogate the informer anyway. He must be able to tell them something else, and if they wait the trail will go cold. The leader asks Marguerite if she wants to lead the interrogation. Why not, she says.They take the informer into a back room and order him to strip. He takes his clothes off slowly, hanging them up on the back of a chair so they won't get creased. One of the guys tells him to hurry up, they haven't got all day. He apologises and carries on removing his clothes. His underpants and socks are dirty. When he's naked, Marguerite asks him how to find Albert des Capitales. He answers evasively and the guys start hitting him a bit. Then Margurite asks him what he did when he visited the Gestapo headquarters. Nothing special, he says, moaning a bit and rubbing the places where they've hit him. I left my ID card at the door and went up. It was just some black market crap, nothing important.So what color was your card? asks Marguerite, but he won't answer. They hit him, and then they hit him more, and he's bleeding in several places. She asks him again what color his card was, and he still won't answer, so they carry on hitting and kicking him. Several other people have come in to watch. A couple of women say uncertainly that maybe this is enough. The leader says that anyone who thinks it's disgusting is welcome to leave. No one leaves.The informer's screaming and covered in blood as they kick him around like a ball. But he still won't say what color his card was. Marguerite tells him he'd better answer or they'll kill him. It looks like she means it. She tries different possibilities. Was it white? He moans no. Red? Also no. Yellow? No again.In the end, he screams out that it was green. That's the color that means he's an S.D. secret agent. Marguerite tells the guys to stop torturing him and let him put his clothes on. She goes out and sees a woman who'd missed all the fun.He confessed, says Marguerite. So fucking what? shrugs the woman. Marguerite starts crying. We should just let him go, she says. People won't like that, says the cell leader.She didn't get around to publishing this story until 1985. _______________________________________The "green card" plays an important role in Simenon's La Neige Etait Sale. It becomes clear that anyone who had a green card was a tool of the Nazi occupiers, and could legitimately be regarded as the worst kind of collaborator and traitor.


خانم مارگاریت عزیز؛ چند شب پیش بود که زدیم توی پر هم. بعد از آن می خواستم به دوراس خوانی فاصله ای بدهم. اما نمی دانم چه شد که کتاب درد را شروع کردم. داستان-کوتاه بلند درد و داستان کوتاه پیر رابیه تان حرف نداشت. می دانید خانم دوراس! باز همان احساس گناهی را دارم که بعد از خواندن صفحه ی آخر وداع با اسلحه داشتم. باز همان شرمندگی حاصل از حیرت صحنه ی پاره شدن دل و روده ی اسب رمان در جبهه ی غرب خبری نیست بیخ گلویمان را گرفت. احساس گناه از این که لذت می بری از خواندن داستانی که قساوت بشر را می کوبد توی صورتش. شرمندگی... شرمندگی... خانم مارگاریت عزیز! هنوز یادم نمی آید که خاطره یا داستانی نظیر دردتان خوانده باشم که تویش این چنین مجروح جنگی به مثابه ی یک ضایعه ی جنگی تصویر شده باشد؛ ضایعه ای چنان اسف بار که خیلی واقع بینانه و سرراست گند بزند به انتظار. بله خانم مارگاریت، چقدر خوب تصویر کرده اید انتظاری را که هیچ وقت نباید به سر می رسید. چقدر خوب ما را در این موقعیت تحقیرآمیز قرار داده اید. شما آدم بزرگی نیستید، اما شاید بزرگی تان در همین جسارت تان باشد که نمی خواهید خودتان را از آنچه که لایقش هستید بزرگ تر نشان دهید. برای دوست داشتن یک زن چه چیزی بیشتر از این؟

Kenneth Elliott Iltz

In this memoir of World War II, Duras shares episodes from her life in occupied Paris, where she belonged to the French Resistance under the leadership of the country's future president, Francois Mitterrand. She describes her efforts to find her husband, also a resistance member, who has been captured by the Nazis and sent to a series of concentration camps. He is found at the end of the war in a concentration camp and returned to Paris as a virtual corpse. Duras also writes of her complicated acquaintanceship with the Gestapo officer who first arrested her husband. The book is not what I expected. I found it fascinating. The focus of each chapter of the book is Paris at the end of WWII. This is a book that should be on everyone's bucket list.


Margareth Duras is a long poem, in different books with different verses. با نام دوراس "سوزان سونتاگ"، و با نام سونتاگ، "مارگریت دوراس" تداعی می شود. تصور می کنم دوراس را هر زنی باید بخواند، و البته هر مردی هم. دوراس "سیمون دو بوار"ی دیگر است، با همان بی پروایی، جسارت و صلابت، اما زنانه و ظریف. برای خواندن و فهمیدن دوراس، باید حوصله و دقت داشت، همان اندازه که برای خواندن ویرجینیا وولف. بسیاری از آثار مارگریت دوراس به همت قاسم رویین به فارسی برگردانده شده. "تابستان 80"، "بحر مکتوب"، "درد"، "نایب کنسول"، "نوشتن"، "همین و تمام"، "باغ گذر"، "باران تابستان"، "عاشق" و البته یکی از شاهکارهایش "مدراتو کانتابیله" توسط رضا سیدحسینی ترجمه شده و "می گوید؛ ویران کن" را خانم فریده زندیه به فارسی برگردانده است. تا آنجا که یادم هست، "هیروشیما، عشق من" نیز سال ها پیش و احتمالن توسط "هوشنگ طاهری" به فارسی ترجمه شده. کتابی که دیگر هیچ خطی از آن به یادم نمانده با این نام، صحنه های فیلم "آلن رنه" با بازی "امانوئل ورا" در خاطرم زنده می شود، فیلمی که در 1959 بر مبنای این رمان کوتاه دوراس، ساخته شده است. این اثر دوراس هم مانند اغلب آثارش در فارسی، توسط قاسم روئین ترجمه و در سال 1378 منتشر شده است


The painful Duras memoir in the end of World War II, her participation in the French resistance, with the help of Francois Morland, i.e., Francois Miterrand.

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