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The War

The War - Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray Okay. This is a difficult book to review, because it's divided into distinct sections and each one is different in style and in quality.

The first section centers on her waiting for the return of her husband from Germany, not knowing if he would return or if he'd been killed. Then he does return and she describes what it was like as he recovered from illness. I found the waiting part a bit redundant, like she could have chopped off a few pages and still conveyed what was important. But she did a better job with the sick husband part. One thing that struck me as interesting was how she characterized De Gaulle in a negative light.

The second section was better I thought. It's about her relationship with a Gestapo agent. I guess I find the idea of a man's weakness being women compelling, because I can relate to it.

The third section is divided into four sub-sections. The first is about the interrogation of an informer. The second describes the transport of a prisoner and disputes over supplies. She mentioned in the section preface that she felt like making love to the prisoner, but she didn't address that attraction in the body of the piece. And I think that was a missed opportunity, as lust is such a universal human feeling. She also mentions that the freedom fighters would steal guns from each other. I thought that was strange. The third and fourth sub-sections are both short stories, as opposed to memoir entries. i found these to be the weakest parts of the book.

As a whole, despite the lack of consistency from section to section, Duras succeeded in portraying the horrors and misery of war. Other writers have eloquently described the more obviosu aspects: guys getting killed and maimed, Jews in cocnentration camps, towns being bombed and burned, etc. But she delved into the poewer struggles among poeple who are supposed to be on the same side. She wrote about waiting for her husband to return from a p.o.w. camp, only to leave him for another man. She described how ordinary people became torturers because that was the only way to get information from the prisoner. If war is this bad for people who were just on the fringes of the actual combat...