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The Malady of Death

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,149 ratings  ·  223 reviews
A man hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea. The woman is no one in particular, a "she," a warm, moist body with a beating heart-the enigma of Other. Skilled in the mechanics of sex, he desires through her to penetrate a different mystery: he wants to learn love. It isn't a matter of will, she tells him. Still, he wants to learn to try . . .This beautifu ...more
Paperback, 60 pages
Published February 1988 by Grove Press (first published 1982)
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Jim Fonseca
A novella, really a short story. A man hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea. He “can’t love” but wants to lean how. Although he hires her, she tells him she’s not a prostitute. Death in this story refers to his inability to love.


Here’s a passage that gives you a good idea of the writing style that uses extremely short sentences almost exclusively :

“The tears wake her. She looks at you. She looks at the room. And again at you. She strokes your hand. Asks: Why are you crying?
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ayna
You say you can't know why, that you don't understand the malady you suffer from.

She smiles, says this is the first time, that until she met you, she didn't know death could be lived.

Your death has already begun.

Ένα μεγάλο ευχαριστώ στην Ιωάννα για την πρόταση της.

Το μόνο που μου έρχεται να πω είναι ένα quote του Oscar:
"Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark. and has the nature of infinity"

Και κλείνω πάλι με quote από το βιβλίο.

Even so you have managed to live that love in the only wa
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sophie by: sweet jane
You ask how loving can happen-the emotion of loving. She answers: Perhaps a sudden lapse in the logic of universe. She says: Through a mistake for instance. She says: Never through an act of will. You ask: Could the emotion of loving come from other things too? You beg her to say. She says: It can come from the flight of a night bird, from a sleep, from a dream of sleep, from the approach of death, from a word, from a crime, of itself, from oneself, often without knowing how.
Πράξη μέσα από τ
Nate D
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who seek one another ('s bodies) in the dark
Recommended to Nate D by: the waves beyond the wall
This is a kind of pure concentrate of late Duras, the brief scenario focused into a streamlined intensity of plot and signifiers. A repeated series of nights, an (absent) love, an absence, tears=waves, and night, always night, only night. She also takes the form to its furthest extent -- unstable tenses unsettle and amplify the salience of the "story", these are words carving out meaning from the very point of their conveyance, the signs are the signified, rather than an attempt to convey a narr ...more
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hybrid, novella
I read this in about an hour. Barely a novella, this surreal, erotic story packs a punch. There are notes at the end from Duras that indicate staging, which to me means she wrote this to be staged or filmed. There is an omniscient narrator above the He/She actors playing out the age old struggle between male and female, yin and yang. The only elements are white sheets and a black roiling sea that continually roars in the background. Some great observations on love and the lack of it.
Lee Foust
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore short, abstract fictions like this one. I think no American literary movement has come close to affecting me like the French Nouveau Roman of the 1950-60s. Of these authors I so admire, however, Duras's work is, for me, a tad up and down. But I found this one very fine. Stark. Erotic, but not sexy. Existential, if you will. A paid relationship pared down to poetic lines, as if metered. Generalizations so full of meaning they became weightless and therefore profound-sounding, ridiculous i ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
You ask: Why is the malady of death fatal? She answers: Because whoever has it doesn't know he's a carrier, of death. And also because he's like to die without any life to die to, and without even knowing that's what he's doing...The fact that you ask the question proves you can't understand. ...more
Χαρά Ζ.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great piece of art.
I am sorry, i have to add something here. This book was "given" to me by a person who i love deeply. Thank you, my dear, for this beautiful gift, and also, thank you, for everything.
Apr 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
4.18.09 -- The washing machine in my house is broken and I had to take a couple of loads of clothes to the laundry mat today. I took this book along because it's short and seemed like it would fit the time span I needed to fill. I jotted some notes in a journal as I read, although I didn't quite finish.

A man hires a prostitute not just for sex, but to try to love. Love is more expensive than sex. Is this foreshadowing? Will the loving of this woman cost the man more than he bargains? The story i
Proustitute (somewhat here, somewhat there)
"If I ever filmed this text I'd want the weeping by the sea to be shot in such a way that the white turmoil of the waves is seen almost simultaneously with the man's face. There should be a correlation between the white of the sheets and the white of the sea...

All this by way of general suggestion."
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: marguerite-duras
You go out again onto the terrace facing the black sea. Inside you there are sobs you can't explain. They linger on the brink of you as if they were outside, they can't reach you and be wept. Facing the black sea, leaning against the wall of the room where she's sleeping, you weep for yourself as a stranger might.
You can't understand how it's possible for her not to know of your tears, for her to be protected from you by herself, for her to be so completely unaware of how she fills the whol
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Crying while having sex, the novel
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: en-français
Duras gives us a fading polaroid snapshot of an unusual relationship, presented through something midway between a novella and a theatre sketch. A man pays a woman to spend several days with him in a hotel by the sea. In doing this, he hopes to be able to experience love, as though it will sprout spontaneously from the soil of this paid liaison. The woman accepts his offer even though she is not a prostitute, but through these pages she remains instead a nameless other, intermittently sleeping a ...more
Trever Polak
(2.5) I admire Duras's writing, I really do. There's just something about it that makes it teeter between great and bad. This book particularly shows when it tips towards the bad side. It's not that there's anything missing in it, it's just that it comes so close to being erotic fiction with no depth. But what it is is impenetrable (ha ha). Duras is trying to say something inexpressible, and it feels almost like it would make a better short film than a novel. But then you watch Hiroshima mon am ...more
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing

A narrator tells the story of a man who pays a woman to stay with him for a period of time so that he can try 'loving'. (She is not a prostitute.) He's never loved a woman, never desired one, never even looked at one. But he knows how to give sexual pleasure. The woman sleeps most of the time. Occasionally they have sex. The man is trying. Some of the time they spend together seems intimate. But can there be intimacy without love? The man is a solitary individual—there is space all around him th
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
a short review for a short story.

The Malady of Death left me with a mayhem of questions about myself. Unaware, She, the author, stripped me naked.
Joey Shapiro
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Marguerite Duras rocks my WORLD!! I literally read this entire thing in Myopic Books in half an hour and it’s so so incredibly gorgeous. There’s a loose story about a doomed affair between two unnamed characters, a man paying a woman to spend two weeks together to see if he can experience love for the first time, but really it reads less as a narrative and more as fluid, dreamy, deeply sad poetry. Everything I have ever read by her is perfect and beautiful and heartbreaking! I just bought an ear ...more
Roberta Pearce
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was turned onto Marguerite Duras’ work by a comment made in an interview of Camilla Monk, wherein Ms. Monk credited Ms. Duras as one of her influences in romance. I’ve spent the last couple days scrounging up books and watching the phenomenal Hiroshima Mon Amour. I’m a bit exhausted. But still going, adding The Lover and The Ravishing of Lol Stein to my TBR. [Pretty sure “Lol” isn’t really “LOL”.]

Just had to add that aside; I need a bit of lightness after a few days of Ms. Duras. Not t
Hüzzam Dilem
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah Marguerite!
M. Sarki
...You say you want to try, try it, try to know, to get used to that body, those breasts, that scent…

Immediately the quotation above brings to mind a poem of Jack Gilbert’s describing how he wants to learn everything he can about Michiko’s body. It could have taken Jack Gilbert a lifetime to get further into the meat of things, but unfortunately she died. Quite a love story for their short time being together.

...You say she mustn't speak, like the women of her ancestors, must yield completely t
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very short erotic story about a man who hires a woman for a few days of sex. He wants to inhale her, consume her. She tells him, it's not gonna happen dude cause you're dead, dead inside. You've just been using our bodies for sex and now that you want to experience the whole thing you find that that other organ is not working. You get what you give, so there! The man is very sad and tries harder...but he has a heavy metal heart(poor thing).

Duras had lots of preachy fun with this.
یگانه(Yeganeh ) بهرامی نژاد
Perfect book i love it
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One sunday morning in the yard on 4th Ave. It was morning and I didn't know what to do. I remember swaying in front of the book shelves and then right there in the yard trying to get away. Balancing, as I remember doing that spring, balancing myself on the book, my love on it, what I wanted to write and what I wanted to be. No. It is not very long. It did not take me very long to read and heat set into the yard and everyone woke up and milled around making breakfast. ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
More than a novella, this reads like a poem. The beauty of this work is that the story is boiled down to its essentials, an economy of words with a cyclical feeling. Death and Life co-existing together briefly in one room. A narrator that tells the story through the second person, perhaps forcing the character Death to act, as if he himself couldn't bring himself to do it. As he cannot bring himself to love.

Beautiful and evocative reading for a short break in the day.
Poetic and weird and a big, huge MEH of a story.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
"A dead man's a strange thing." (pg. 42)

I wonder if the Malady of Death really has no cure. Isn't there a way to retrieve one's soul?

"The fact that you ask the question proves you can't understand" (pg. 49)
Emma Helvete
The Malady of Death is an interesting short read, I like the surreal writing style that is focusing on subconscious thoughts rather than logical order, which reminds me the writing style of virginia woolf. However, I have been hesitating between two star and three star rating is because I did not find the content appealing to me. When I put the surreal writing style and the sexual intention aside, the story itself seems rather shallow to me.
Manan Desai
Feb 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, erotica, 2021
A very short meditation on a man's inability to love a woman, any woman, has lyrical prose with erotic undertones. In typical Duras style, there is absence of a plot and both the characters are defined superficially. As with The Lover, Duras concentrates more on the language and style than typical traits of fiction such as story and character development. It is not as entrancing as The Lover, though a quick experimental read.

Duras has given some suggestions for staging it as a play in the end pa
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I got into Duras through French auteur Alain Resnais. I can see why they liked working with each other. Like Marguerite Duras, Resnais also relies heavily on memories and remembering. "The Malady of Death" is a precursor to Duras' most famous book "The Lover". Far from examining love as an Ideal, it is a graphic account of sex and obsession. Specifically, it is less about love and more about "how to love" or *not* knowing how to love. This novella was written in a drunk stupor by Duras. There's ...more
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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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111 likes · 10 comments
“Even so you have managed to live that love in the only way possible for you. Losing it before it happened.” 49 likes
“Soon you give up, don't look for her anymore, either in the town or at night or in the daytime.
Even so you have managed to live that love in the only way possible for you. Losing it before it happened.”
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