Marguerite Duras came to me over 20 years ago when I had not even found anyone to love. She was only "L'Amant", and some theatre and movies. I read, listened and watched with her and her huge and hideous face, her amphibious body and the chaos of her numerous books, the only thing that surprised me was all that confidence at the time when she would wrote obsessively to us; then, her deformed eyes became sharp, and they would be forever enshrined in my memory, Duras was only her eyes and themes for me.
I could not understand how what everybody considered a great literature and a great person in my eyes and my ears was just that image of obsession, of ugliness and of persistence in writing.
I found her again in an airplane, in the darkness of a 14 hour flight and in a continuous 2009 New Year's night. As I read her "L'Amant de la Chine du Nord", Duras's words got mixed with those that had read more than 20 years ago, when I had not loved anyone, when I was in love only with theater, my body and my future. So, with memories from those years and from my readings, I had to stop my reading, so many books were being read at the same time in my head! again the mirror of the past emerged and at 40 years of age it brazenly opened before me. I see myself in every word I read, in every word I repeat, I admire the writing for what time has done to me.
I remembered that staging of the play "Agatha" at school, in which I did not take part, but which I watched attentively. It was the time when I was discovering the Tchekhovian Naturalism of Gonzalez Caballero, the acting technique of haikus and internal pain, of confusion and of immense love for acting, of tears that spoke of love and loneliness. That Agatha... I admired the director and the group, my friends, and I was in love with their work, perhaps even with them, I don't know I was young. The perceived depth of their dialogue was so shallow did not feel the texts of Duras (I trusted in those texts so little!), I could not perceive the emotional gulf of the incestuous relationship, of the insolence and pain of not being able to love yourself anymore. I tried to approach the director, who was as young as me, and share my theatre and its achievements. I talked with him, gave him "my secret", the Japanese poems that led me to feel what I knew was lacking in their staging of the play, and a charming smile thanked me.
I knew then that to read Duras or to see her on stage or on screen required help, required a big past, a technique, a viewer with history, and not young people who dream of creating... Including me with my experiences and "my secrets".
That assistance was futile, I was not taken into account, the work didn't even make it to the premiere, the group dispersed and the theater stopped being a part of their lives ... I remember with sadness how that beautiful stage director died little by little, being just as young as I was, and what I watched him meditating under a storm, I learned that the plague that terrified our sex lives in the eighties had covered him and was defeating him. Agatha kept inside me added to that terrible image of a young dying and shaping my past.
Therefore Duras was also imprinted in my theatrical life, she embedded herself subtly with a memory of death, impotence, and who knows, perhaps also of love and desolation.
As many of us lost track of one another, she become just another name, literature from other people. Until that long night at the plane over the sea, where it all came back. Thoughts. Did I have to to be living in China to know her again? Did I have to lose myself in troubled relationships to recognize that what she talked about was loving (in ignorance) a stranger ?
The lovers recognize cultural differences, incestuous siblings recognize social differences ... We all love each other in the impossibility of being whole. Chinese words heard from other place burst my memory: we Westerners are no more than hookers in search of freedom, chaos, incest, insanity, ambition and money, we love the freedom that has led us to degeneration! While they, in their overwhelming hypocrisy of centuries, must follow their traditions, appear wise, and never lose face; why give up life and joy at the expense of love, which is stupid?
Reading Duras again, 20 years after, brings me laughter, sarcasm, and pain. The eternal disgrace of her Chinese lover is a victory for the little French whore from the west ... Those words are worth more than a life of respect in a stale and putrid society and they end in a telephone call saying that "he has always loved her."
I have had to touch Chinese hands, their skin and their powerlessness; I've had to breathe the suffocating heat of northern China, of Indochina and Siam, and immerse myself in all the rivers that cross them. I have had to hate and get to know about cultural, social, racial differences... To know the powerlessness of loving until due to cultural differences, and just then, to only live to write about them.
I went back to reading the lovers, her Agatha too, I bought her books, her works, I watched her movies, I thought about them and about her, I looked again at her amphibious face and past of vice and communism. She is not my goddess nor my theater nor my literature, but she is a bit of my understanding of love and cultures.
I knew the final piece that were written about that first love should be the best, because it was the one she would write after having talked about everything, about what was well known ... When there were no more anecdotes to talk about, you would have to talk about what is essential, to clean the truth and tell it with the simplicity the narrative images, which is not poetry in itself and yet is so close to it that it surpasses poetry when poetry lets down its guard. That's "L'Amant de la Chine du Nord".
I knew that at some point in my life I'd have to read her once again and several more times; that I would need, as I need water, that I would need her rhythm and her vague (due to its being ephemeral) understanding of love, that by reading her in her own language I would enjoy her more, feel her more and even cry with her. I knew that being a writer now I could alsom relive her.
Now that I close my eyes and her books, I enjoy a phantasmal feeling. I've found a very short and long-lasting response to a haiku, and enjoy it, and I rest.
Perhaps one would not read Duras more than twice in a lifetime.