No one is telling me that I must like this book, and that is just as well because I do not. This book, Marguerite Duras’ Yann Andréa Steiner is not a bad book, but it is a self-indulgent one, and it approaches the reader with the watery over-familiarity of acknowledged eminence and suffering, for which the reader is assumed to feel a humble appreciation, awe, desire, and sympathy. Yes, well, the world is a vale of suffering – you have suffered – but what do you mean to do about it (besides wringing your hands and crying aloud eheu, eheu! before collapsing on the shoulder of an attractively dangerous1 young person)? This same complacent passivity, this will-to-suffer (or perhaps, will-to-be-overwhelmed-by-the-evil-of-the-world) and have one’s suffering admired is the same reason I do not like what little I’ve read of Modiano. What call is there, really, for a reader to witness this suffering, that is both too great and too little to be shoved into the girdle of a novella? I have no patience for it.
And there, the book had ended.
That Theodora was too much for a book. Too much.
You said, ‘Too little, perhaps.’ (109)
And if you aren’t able to speak of it, if you aren’t able to make a story of it, if it is too much, too little, or too much of enough, well then, begad, stop fussing!2
- Or monstrously virile.
- I will admit, however, that reading a collection of Muriel Spark short stories did not put me in the best frame of mind to appreciate what Duras was up to. Then again, I very much doubt I was the intended or ideal reader of the book in any case.