In Duras’ footsteps. Café music.

Michaël Samyn, September 21, 2012

Someone playing the piano is a recurring theme in Duras’ work. Several of her novels have a particular song that keeps being heard. Either a classical tune, or a dance, or a mysterious droning and chanting.

There’s a virtual jukebox in the café in Bientôt l’été and one of the songs it plays is Hervé Vilard’s Capri c’est fini. This was apparently one of Duras’ favorite songs. She mentions it in her novel Yann Andréa Steiner.

Quelquefois c’est au bord de la mer. Quand la plage se vide, à la tombée de la nuit. Après le départ des colonies d’enfants. Sur toute l’étendue des sables tout à coup, ça hurle que Capri c’est fini. Que C’ÉTAIT LA VILLE DE NOTRE PREMIER AMOUR mais que maintenant c’est fini. FINI.
Que c’est terrible tout à coup. Terrible. Chaque fois à pleurer, à fuir, à mourir parce que Capri a tourné avec la terre, vers l’oubli de l’amour.

Other music that comes straight out of Duras’ work is India Song. It appears as an instrumental in several of her novels and films. But she also wrote lyrics for it, sung by Jeanne Moreau.

Toi qui ne veux rien dire
Toi qui me parles d’elle
Et toi qui me dis tout
Ô, toi,
Que nous dansions ensemble
Toi qui me parlais d’elle
D’elle qui te chantait
Toi qui me parlais d’elle
De son nom oublié
De son corps, de mon corps
De cet amour là
De cet amour mort

The remaining songs in the jukebox come in part from my own childhood memories of my parents’ fondness for French chanson. And from Bientôt l’été composer Walter Hus’ suggestion, whose idea it was to play this kind of music in this scene in the first place. They are just wonderfully sentimental songs. Sometimes I wonder what pop culture would have been like of not the Anglo-Saxon but the French had dominated it.

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