What is the relationship between memory and forgetfulness in Duras’s The Lover?

“The Life and Loves of Marguerite Duras” – a short biographical summar, literary primer, interview

Duras wrote about the affair she had with her Chinese lover in a series of iterations, beginning with a fictionalized version, then moving closer and closer to “true” autobiography (or as true as one can ever get). 

Un barrage contre le Pacifique ,  1950 / translated by Herma Briffault as The Sea Wall, 1952

 L’Amant, 1984 / translated by Barbara Bray as The Lover, 1985

 The Lover (film) came out in 1992; Duras began working on the film but split from the production and disclaimed any association with it.  Her next book (below) was written to “correct” the story of the film, and was supposedly the “real” story at last.

L’Amant de la Chine du Nord , 1991 / translated by Leigh Hafrey as The North China Lover, 1992

Discussion Question:

Consider the following quote by Carol Hoffman from Forgetting and Marguerite Duras (University of Colorado Press, 1991):

“The repetition of situations, events, memories, and words abounds in Duras’s texts. This repetition seems to emphasize the changing, unstable aspect of memory and language and move the reader to question his or her own memory and examine the dynamics of forgetting. . . . memory is seen as volatile and impossible. It is a movement toward the ever-elusive and often painful . . . . It is a remembering that destroys memory and leads to a new memory, which can replace the last only fleetingly and without substance . . . a refusal of convention or disguise, as a unity of thought and will, life and appearance” (35-6).

What is the relationship between memory and forgetfulness in Duras’s The Lover?

2. Write responses for other three student’s work. (50-75 words Each)

First student

I liked the film.  I felt that it was true to the spirit of “The Guest”.  All of the important elements were there:  the underlying tension and desperation in French Algiers at the time, the moral dilemma that Daru faced, and the choice that the Arab made. 

Some small elements were altered or missing in Williams’ film.  The Arab’s clothes were different.  Balducci was younger.  It wasn’t snowing.  They were noticeable if you had just read the story as we had, but they didn’t make a difference to the plot. 

The biggest difference between the story and the film is that Williams spells out what Camus only implies.  Camus portrayed Balducci as an older gendarme, somewhat sympathetic to Daru, but determined to fulfil his orders nonetheless.  In Williams’ film, Balducci is younger and standoffish with Daru.  Unlike in the story, he threatens Daru with treason if he doesn’t turn the Arab in at Tinguit.    

The scene where Daru and the Arab part ways is also different.  In the film, the Arab tells Daru that he speaks French and understands what will happen to Daru if he doesn’t show up at the prison.  In the original story, Camus has Daru cut the Arab off after he says, “Listen”.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I liked that Williams spelled out what was happening more clearly.  After reading the story I wasn’t sure what would happen to Daru if he didn’t turn in the Arab and I wasn’t sure if the Arab understood what was happening.

Second student:

The movie linked the short story together very well in my opinion. It was nice to actually see the emotions on the characters faces and to see “The Arab” as an actual person rather than just “The Arab” in the story; it gave me more of a connection with him. The biggest element that I thought was missing from the film was how at the end of the story there was a message written on the teacher’s blackboard which said “You handed over our brother. You will pay for this”. It’s a shame that this isn’t in the film because for me it ends the story perfectly with this lingering sense of dread. It also would’ve been nice to find out what happens to Balducci and if “The Arab” actually foes to Tinguit.

Third student:

The film depicts the moral dilemma of “The Guest” in a very similar way, though there are some differences that require highlighting. First, though it was small it was something that stuck out to me the most.  Within the story we are told