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The War

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,475 ratings  ·  190 reviews
One of France's greatest novelists offers a remarkable diary of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II and of its eventual liberation by the Allies. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the liberation, this extraordinary diary by the author of The Lover is "a haunting portrait of a time and place" (New York Times).

Written in 1944, and first published in 1985, Dura
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by The New Press (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
La Douleur = The War, Marguerite Duras

War: A Memoir is a controversial, semi-autobiographical work by Marguerite Duras published in 1985 but drawn from diaries that she supposedly wrote during World War II.

It is a collection of six texts recounting a mix of her experiences of the Nazi Occupation of France, with fictional details.

She claims to have "forgotten" ever writing the diary in which she recorded her wartime experiences, but most critics believe that to be a deliberate attempt to confu
Steven Godin
Published some forty years after it was written during the liberation of Paris, Marguerite Duras, with a state of mind that is clearly under the influence of paranoia, anguish, and deep worry, writes of her day to day experiences in 1944, during uncertain times in the French capital. Duras apparently found this written account as a diary in a couple of exercise books inside a cupboard, and says,

"I have no recollection of having written it. I know I did. I recognize my own handwriting, details of
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
Experimental and autobiographical, The War sketches a breathtaking portrait of life in Paris shortly before and after the liberation of the city from Nazi rule. In hypnotic prose Duras reflects on a few of her most vivid memories from the time: maintaining close contact with a member of the Gestapo for French intelligence purposes; waiting in suspense for her husband, a possibly executed prisoner of war, to return from a concentration camp; interrogating an informant with fellow members of the R ...more
Since 9/11, there has been much debate about whether torture is justified. Its apologists in the Bush-Cheney administration were eloquent about why it can sometimes be necessary. We were frequently told about ticking time-bombs and the threat of a mushroom cloud over an American city. Some horrifying stories surfaced from people who had been tortured at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. But, and it just occurs to me now to think how odd this is, I don't recall reading one straightforward ac ...more
Reviewed in conjunction with Roughneck by Jim Thompson

Sometimes you read a book that makes you feel ashamed of your life, every time you thought you were unlucky or that you deserve more or that you should get more. Whatever you have suffered, however genuine it be, suddenly becomes as nothing, its place clearly fixed in the universe as the measliest dot the world ever has seen. Roughneck does that. It describes a portion of his life in the pared down, straightforward way Thompson tells all his
A collection of 6 short stories, of which at least 2, possibly 3, are autobiographical. Duras claimed they were written shortly after World War II, but totally forgotten by her; they were not published until 1985. Especially the first story ("La douleur"/literarly "The Suffering", but the English editor chose "The war")is a real punch in the stomach, I cannot describe it otherwise. Set largely in April-June 1945, it describes the state of expectation, despair and feverish confusion of a woman in ...more
Nate D
The great sundering of 20th century Europe in all its visceral brutality, through a series of narrow cases. A waiting for word of the dead or maybe living, a forced desperate proximity to a traitor (quintessential embodiment of the banality of evil -- he failed to open an art book store, so became an official for the collaborationist government), an interrogation, a few thematic vignettes. Through these, Duras traces the contours of something inexpressible. My question for any 20th-century Frenc ...more
Jeff Jackson
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hard to believe this wasn't published until the 1980s, when Duras found the material in an old attic and had little memory of having written it. Highlights are the two opening sections: Duras's astonishing account of waiting to see if her husband would return from the concentration camps and her encounters with the German officer who arrested him. ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Not for a second do I see the need to be brave. Perhaps being brave is my form of cowardice."
I just realized that I have not reviewed this book yet.

Part of the reason for my lapse is that there is never anything to say about war. About the Holocaust. About torture. About death.

Or rather, there is too much to say that I never know where to begin.

Besides Marguerite said it all already in this book.

Which is in itself impressive. She says it all in here without falling into the typical trappings of
Doruntina Aliu
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
When reading an usual book we're always thinking what are the motives of the characters. However, in real life, such motives might not even exist. Everyone knows how messy human lives and experiences are. The War is a perfect representation of that. It doesn't answer any question, provides for no motives, every behavior is mystifying. Although Duras claimed she had no recollection of writing the memoir, its sentences still ring in my ear, almost like a reminder of how painful love and war can be ...more
In so many ways, this is a novel unlike anything else Duras has written-- it's far more straightforward, especially considering how it masks itself as a series of “lost diaries.” And it's skeletally spare, which I think is necessary when you're writing a book called “La Douleur” (“Pain”) (and a major fuck you to whichever American publisher decided to translate this title as “War: A Memoir”). While it doesn't reach the tropical lushness of L'Amant or the spare beauty of Moderato Cantabile, it's ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I'm feeling sort of odd about this. It was my introduction to Marguerite Duras and I think it ought not to have been. On the other hand, I read it because I wanted some foreknowledge and perspective and this surely gave it to me.

The first 50 pages or so are a diary of the end of the war in Paris and her not knowing whether her husband survived. Waiting. Waiting. I tried to remind myself it was a diary, yet written so powerfully I had tears running down my cheeks in the first 10 pages.

The next ab
Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the third time I have read a book by Duras and said it is the best book I have ever read. I am astonished and destroyed. Despite the fact that the English publishers did everything in their power to make no one want to read it, by changing the title shamelessly in order to fit into the memoirs market. The real title should be translated--so I am told--Pain or Suffering. I didn't like the story from her communist period. I also had some problems with the following one, about the small Jew ...more
Aug 27, 2015 added it
It was amazing, I couldn't finish the last chapter, it was too sad to take in at the moment. ...more
The book is divided into different stories. I really enjoyed the first ones, her small memoir on how she waited for her husband -who had been made prisoner of war -with no way to know for sure if he would ever come back from the death camps was my favourite. It was a terrifying read, you can feel -if only in parts- her longing, her pain, her dread and fear from those pages she claim to not even remember having written.

Next come more stories about her involvment in the french resistance. How she
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. The most visceral, heart-wrenching description of waiting, waiting for someone who may not be coming home, that I've ever read. Provided a really interesting perspective as a member of the French Resistance in Paris during WWII, something I know almost nothing about. Primarily memoir, based on her journals kept during the war, but ended with two short stories that I enjoyed somewhat less. Beautiful writing but as usual with a translation, I'm never sure how much is author and how much ...more
Ivy-Mabel Fling
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read but harrowing - Duras claims to have based these stories on some diaries she found in her attic but she has obviously modified them and made them less raw and more literary. The most harrowing thing about the whole collection is the protagonist's behaviour when she has the opportunity to use violence herself. She does so, and without scruples. As her husband wrote, people do not change and do not learn from experience. ...more
Nicole Bouvrie
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For years I wanted to read this book, but could never find it. Now I did find a copy from 1986, and read it in a few hours. Unique in its perspective of the one who waits... who waits for the arrival of someone who might have survived the camps, not knowing what he has survived. Incredibly moving.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, biography
Many years ago, I read Marguerite Duras's The Ravishing of Lol Stein, which, at the time, did not make much of an impression on me. Such was not the case with The War, which struck me as being more emotionally realistic than most Resistance literature. (After all, it seems that 125% of the French were actively involved in the Resistance.) I knew, when Duras used the term naphthalinés, "the mothballed ones," to refer to French army members who decamped and put their uniforms in mothballs rather t ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first piece in this collection which bears the same title as the book, the war, is perhaps one of the most painful things I have ever read; Brutally personal and breathtakingly authentic. For the two days that i was reading it i could barely think of anything other than the "characters" and what they have been through. It's as hunting as a non-fictional gets. I'll certainly go back to this text later. The biggest question I'm left with is that during those days of great suffering and despair ...more
Lane Pybas
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoiresque
6 affecting stories about Duras’ role in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France. Duras casts doubt on the veracity of her autobiography by claiming she doesn’t remember writing the principle story, “La Douler,” and by admitting that the facts of another story “lie buried under 40 years.” These deliberate efforts to confuse autobiography and fiction, in conjunction with her deceptively simple prose, render some of the most disturbing tales of WW2 that I have ever read, be they ...more
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
have to admit to not remembering much about this, but have come across this note in my 1989 notebook:

Marguerite Duras's writing in 'La Doleur': next to it your own problems, your own writing seems silly. Robert L's slow and painful recovery, all his insides visible, his skin like paper.

I'll have to seek it out again.
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An important perspective of world war two. This memoir is modernist and investigates the problems of truth in writing a memoir. A lovely and terrifying story. I'm a better person for having read it. ...more
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, reviewed, francais
Reading La Douleur was very timely as we are just about to remember Victory in Europe, 75 years ago. Marguerite Duras vividly reminds us of some of the terrible atrocities committed by the Nazis. She was part of a literary crowd who were active in the Resistance, a crowd which included Francis Mitterrand.

Her book recounts the arrest of her husband by the Gestapo and the repatriation of prisoners after the Liberation. After France's defeat in 1940, nearly two million French soldiers were in Germa
William Kirkland
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, ww-ii, memoir
In 1944 Maguerite Duras wrote what was to become the absolutely gripping memoir, La Douleur (1985) / The War in Barbara Bray’s 1986 translation. She had kept notes as she was living through the events described, notes which were then lost to memory until, going through old papers in a seldom visited country house she discovered them.

“I found myself confronted with a tremendous chaos of thought and feeling that I couldn’t bring myself to tamper with, and beside which literature was something of w
Sally Boyer
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Brutal truths told in beautiful poetic prose. This memoir is a must-read for anyone with any sort of an opinion on war. Duras illustrates the irremediable pain of war for those left at home, waiting:

"You don't exist any more in comparison with his waiting. More images pass through your head than there are on all the roads in Germany. Bursts of machine guns fire every minute inside your head. And yet you're still there, the bullets aren't fatal. Shot in transit. Dead with an empty stomach. His h
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author's style (nouveau roman) made the book a struggle to read. The characters in the sometimes related stories concern resistance, collaboration and sympathy for the enemy. I had a tough time developing sympathy for the woman character. She whined incessantly. She was way more self-centered than those fictional English heroines w their stiff upper lips. Example: even when thinking of the fear, suffering and possible dying moments of her imprisoned husband, she wonders if he were calling h ...more
Rodger A. Payne
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, war, suspense
I don't read memoirs often, but picked up this book last year when cleaning out my in-laws house. Duras writes of her personal experiences at the end of World War II. In one lengthy section, she describes the agony of not knowing whether her husband has been killed in a German death camp. In two other stories, she recounts stories about the resistance. In one, she is helping them focus on a German policeman who works at rounding up her countrymen. In the other, members of the resistance interrog ...more
Mike Clinton
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This was valuable for learning about yet another among the varied experiences in France during the Second World War. Duras' writing style conveys emotional power through spare sentence construction, limited context, repetition, and other devices that produce a tightly focused, insistent immediacy (despite being written forty years after the events recounted) and suppressed psychological tension; yet, it's not a style that appeals to my own aesthetic tastes. It offers some insights about the emot ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Harrowing, complex, and haunting ar words I would use to describe this semi-autobiographical work by Marguerite Duras. In six non-chronological parts (some memoir, some invented stories) she details her experiences during WWII, particularly the Nazi occupation of France. I already want to read this book again because of the many layers in POV, genre, etc. Truly a captivating and very intense read.
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Marguerite Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on 4 April 1914, in Gia Định, Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam). Her parents, Marie (née Legrand, 1877-1956) and Henri Donnadieu (1872-1921), were teachers from France who likely had met at Gia Định High School. They had both had previous marriages. Marguerite had two older siblings: Pierre, the eldest, and Paul.

Duras's father fell ill and h

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