In Duras’ footsteps. Walking. And drinking.

Michaël Samyn, September 22, 2012

Taking long walks is the main activity in Bientôt l’été. As it is in many of the novels by Marguerite Duras. Her protagonists roam beaches, the cities they dwell in, in one case they cross an entire country on foot. They walk and walk and walk. Tirelessly. Daily. For months, for years. With no purpose, no goal. Sometimes it seems like they are only half conscious of the act. As if the walking is a kind of physical ritual necessary to engage in a certain mental activity. If only forgetting.

And of course, inevitably, one day the walking is interrupted. An event happens and as of then, the ritual loses its pointlessness. The body of Anne Desbaresdes cannot resist moving towards the seaside café to encounter the body of Chauvin, in Moderato Cantabile. The embarrassed waitress turns up the volume of the radio (also in the game!) while Desbaresdes and Chauvin order one glass of wine after the other.

Alcohol. Another recurring theme. Duras writes about what she knows. Long walks, love and drinking. She was an alcoholic. Probably for most of her life, judging by the frequency of heavy drinking in her novels. She died at age 82 and continued to write highly lucidly to the very end. So she far from drank herself to death.

Drinking, like walking, must have been a kind of ritual -only far less healthy. A way to order thoughts, control the mind. For the Great Work that she was engaged in. Or as Anne Debaresdes wonders in Moderato Cantabile.

Si on ne buvait pas tant, ce ne serait pas possible?

If we would not drink as much, this would not be possible?

Duras was far too clever and sophisticated to draw any simplistic moralistic conclusions about human behavior. She was an observer. She did not judge. Human life in all its variety and with its different kinds of weaknesses. And she realized that it is not despite of these weaknesses that people could be beautiful. It was because of them. I will be forever indebted to her for that insight.

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