Unsolved Problems: Rachel Kushner on Marguerite Duras

By Rachel KushnerMarch 27, 2017

Unsolved Problems: Rachel Kushner on Marguerite Duras

"Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems." - Virginia Woolf,  A Room of One's Own 

Read more in the Unsolved Problems series in the LARB Quarterly Journal, No. 13.


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From La Vie materiélle, “Alcohol” by Marguerite Duras:

"I became an alcoholic as soon as I started to drink. I drank like one straight away, and left everyone else behind. I began by drinking  in the evening, then at midday, then in the morning, and then I began to drink at night. First once a night, then every two hours. I’ve never drugged myself any other way. I’ve always known that if I took to heroin it would soon get out of control. I’ve alway drunk with men. Alcohol is linked to the memory of sexual violence — it makes it glow, it’s inseparable from it. But only in the mind. Alcohol is a substitute for pleasure though it doesn’t replace it. People obsessed with sex aren’t usually alcoholics. Alcoholics, even those in the gutter, tend to be intellectuals. The proletariat, a class far  more intellectual now than the bourgeoisie, has a propensity for alcohol, as can be seen all over the world. Of all human occupations, manual work is probably the kind that leads most directly to thought, and therefore to drink. Just look at the history of ideas. Alcohol makes people talk. It’s spiritually carried to the point where logic becomes lunacy; it’s reason going mad trying to understand why this kind of society, this Reign of Injustice, exists. And it always ends in despair. A drunk is often coarse, but rarely obscene. Sometimes he loses his temper and kills. When you’ve had too much to drink you’re back at the start of an infernal cycle of life. People talk about happiness, and say it’s impossible. But they know what the word means."

Submitted by Rachel Kushner.

LARB Contributor

Rachel Kushner is the author of the critically acclaimed 2013 novel The Flamethrowers. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. It was named a best book by the Washington Post Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. Kushner's fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street. She is a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow.

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