Duras on the discontinuation of letters

The Brooklyn Rail prints an excerpt from Marguerite Duras’ Yann Andréa Steiner, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti.

It was you who reminded me later, much later, about that bar, a fairly elegant, attractive place, and about the two whiskeys I had that evening. I had no recollection of those whiskeys, nor of you, nor of the other young grad students, nor of the bar. I recalled, or so I thought, that you had walked me to the parking lot where I’d left my car. I still had that Renault 16, which I loved and still drove fast back then, even after the health problems related to alcohol. You asked me if I had lovers. I said, Not anymore, which was true. You asked how fast I drove at night. I said ninety, like everyone else with an R16. That it was wonderful. It was after that evening that you began writing me letters. Many letters. Sometimes one a day. They were very short letters, more like notes; they were, yes, like cries for help sent from an unbearable, deathly place, a kind of desert. The beauty of those cries was unmistakable.

I didn’t answer.

I kept all the letters.

At the tops of the pages were the names of the places where they’d been written and the time or the weather: Sunny or Rainy. Or Cold. Or: Alone.

And then once, a long time went by with no word at all. Perhaps a month, I don’t remember how long it lasted.

And so in my turn, in the void left by you, by that absence of letters, of cries for help, I wrote to find out why you had stopped writing.


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