Literary Nonfiction. Fiction. Essay. Film. Literary Criticism. These are essayistic works written for their times but too virtuosic to be relegated to history, works of commentary or recollection or reportage by a literary master. With an introduction by Dan Gunn.
Duras comes across as a hyperactive, if not always systematic, writer ... Duras writes this 'me,' this 'I,' this assured voice that lends an air of assurance to outspoken and controversial opinions. Her voice comes across as measured yet absolute, generous yet unrelenting. It is this duality in the 'me' voice that makes these essays so endearing and easy to engage with ... These are not easy essays, but they are always a pleasure to read. As I was reading, I was constantly impressed not only with the beauty of each phrase but with the detail and research that must have gone into translating this collection. Baes and Ramadan capture the liberty and madness, the very breath of Duras’s thought: moving seamlessly between ideas, the measured precise inhales and exhales of an opera singer. They make distant events, foreign ideas, and even repulsive thoughts belong to the reader herself. And through the meandering journey of these essays it is always possible to identify with Duras’s 'I' ... Reading Me & Other Writing is a powerful experience ... Duras’s striking lack of humility in these texts and in her opinions is uniquely different from the immodesty one encounters today; hers is earned confidence and a belief that what she says and studies matters.
These pointedly uneven essays, ranging from 350 words to more than seventy pages, are full of silences and contradictions, leaping between politics, memory, literature, fashion, and art. If Balzac’s densely described universe leaves the reader immobilized in place, Duras requires a different form of submission: one that is active, necessitating constant voluntary consent ... As the writer of this review, I feel keenly aware that the act of trying to apply a cohesive reading to her essays is an experiment she would find inherently displeasing...But describing her work feels as impossible as winning a battle against a rising sea. There is nothing to do but to give in to it. But, of course, fragility comes with its own power. It makes its demands upon its handler, or else it willfully shatters beneath you.
Me & Other Writing brings this facet of Duras to light. In doing so, the volume manages to offer an accessible primer to her work in general as well as a careful assessment of what it is like to attempt to render Duras’s prose into English ... she makes her reader attend to the silences and lacunae that puncture the landscape of not only her language but language itself. And for all that, her writing is still beautiful ... the infinite space, mediated by writing, between the legible and the inaccessible, is what Duras at her best offers the reader.