[Marxism] Memoir of War | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 17 08:30:42 MDT 2018

“Memoir of War” is an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s La Douleur (The 
Pain, published in English as The War), a 1985 semi-fictional memoir 
about her experiences living in Vichy France in 1945 and during the 
immediate post-liberation period. Her husband Robert Antelme was a 
member of the Resistance and a Communist like her. With Antelme a 
prisoner in a slave labor camp in Germany, she tries to prevent him from 
being transferred to an even more lethal camp like Dachau by forming 
ties to a Vichy collaborator who has a double agenda: to extract 
information about the Resistance and to seduce her. She walks a 
tightrope, trying to exploit her relationship with him to keep her 
husband alive while avoiding a Harvey Weinstein moment.

The film is among the best I have seen about living under fascism and a 
reminder of how great a writer Marguerite Duras was. “Memoir of War” 
relies on her character’s (played brilliantly by Mélanie Thierry) 
voiceover drawn from the text of La Douleur. I generally find such a 
device intrusive but in this instance it worked perfectly since the 
literary text meshed so well with the cinematic texture. Setting the 
tone for the remainder of the film, we hear Duras’s words before the 
credits role as she sits alone in her apartment smoking a cigarette 
while pacing the floor:

	I found this diary in the blue cupboards at Neaulphe. I don’t remember 
writing it. I know I did though. I know it was me. I recognize the 
handwriting and the details of what happened. I can picture the place. 
The Gare D’Orsay. My itineraries. But not myself writing. What I found 
was evenly filled pages, the letters tiny, unbelievably placid and 
regular. What I found was a phenomenal chaos of thought and feeling that 
I dare not amend, besides which literary polish strikes me as shameful. 
One thing is sure, obvious. It is unthinkable that these words were 
written whilst waiting for Robert.

Of course, the claim that she didn’t “remember writing it” has to be 
taken with a grain of salt. To understand why she would 
double-reflexively write, “I don’t remember writing it”, you have to 
place her in the context of French postwar culture. Now obscure to most 
young people except maybe those who major in French literature at your 
better universities, Duras was among France’s leading literary figures 
in the 1950s. She worked in many genres, including fiction, theater, 
essays, and screenwriting. In 1959, she was nominated for an Academy 
Award for the screenplay for “Hiroshima, Mon Amour”, an antiwar film 
that relies heavily on the interior monologues of the two main 
characters. (This classic film can be seen here.)

full: https://louisproyect.org/2018/08/17/memoir-of-war/

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