Monday, April 26, 2010

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

One summer's night, a long time ago in the remains of Orange's Roman ampitheatre, I saw a play performed in French. Although I understood very little I have never forgotten it. The actors talked in intense sentences barely stopping for breath. It was as if their thoughts could not be contained but were spilling forth in words. I was reminded of this in Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras, kindly sent to me by One World few months ago, and which I have only just found time to read. As with all One World Classics, the cover is beautiful.

It is a very short novel and reminded me of one of those dances in which the couple part then come together again and again. A woman hears a woman being murdered while her son is taking a piano lesson and is drawn toward the scene. There a young man has witnessed it and they begin talking. The woman becomes obsessed with the murder, returning again and again to the scene, begging the witness for a little more information each time. Slowly their relationship evolves too, although it is never stated or even referred to by either of them. It lurks there between what is being said; the strange oblique questions and answers clearly pointing to more.

It is a little like watching an artist at work. At first he might lightly sketch the scene, then he might apply a wash and pick out a little detail in a tree. Next he might add flecks of light. He passes over the scene again and again, each time picking out a little more until the whole painting is complete.


Anonymous crimeficreader said...

That is indeed a lovely cover. I'd love the hat and the dress. And to frame the picture...

Mon Apr 26, 05:44:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Same here, CFR.

Mon Apr 26, 11:24:00 pm  

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