From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Marguerite Donnadieu', better known as Marguerite Duras (April 4, 1914 – March 3, 1996) was a French writer and film director, best known as the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais. She also co-wrote, with Jean Genet, the screenplay to Mademoiselle.
Marguerite's father fell ill soon after their arrival, and returned to France, where he died. After his death, her mother, a teacher, remained in Indochina with her three children. The family lived in relative poverty after a bad investment in an isolated property and area of farmland in Cambodia. The difficult life that the family experienced during this period was highly influential on Marguerite's later work.
At 18, Marguerite went to France, her parents' native country, to study law in Paris. After completing her studies, she became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party) and was engaged in the resistance.
She is the author of a great many novels, plays, films, interviews and short narratives, including her best-selling, apparently autobiographical work L'Amant (1984), translated into English as The Lover. This text won the Goncourt prize in '84. The story of her adolescence also appears in three other forms: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover was released to great success in 1992, produced by Claude Berri, although Marguerite was rather excluded from the creative process.
Other major works include Moderato Cantabile, also made into a film of the same name, Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, and her film India Song. She was also the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.
Duras's early novels were fairly conventional in form (their 'romanticism' was criticised by fellow writer Raymond Queneau); however, with Moderato Cantabile she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the Nouveau roman French literary movement, although did not definitively belong to any group. Her films are also experimental in form, most eschewing synch sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story over images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less tangential.
Marguerite's adult life was somewhat difficult, despite her success as a writer, and she was known for her periods of alcoholism. She died in Paris, aged 81 from throat cancer and is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. Her tomb is marked simply 'MD'.