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Fictionalising Trauma

The Aesthetics of Marguerite Duras’s India Cycle

Sirkka Knuuttila

With Marguerite Duras being the most disputed French artist after World War II, symbolising trauma represents the most problematic crux of contemporary trauma research. This book brings together these troublesome issues by way of integrating Duras’s aesthetics and the challenge of working through major historical trauma. Starting from the concept of an embodied mind as developed in current social neuroscience, the study illuminates the stylistic devices of the famous India Cycle that arose from Duras’s relentless struggle with the trauma of French colonialism. It reveals how converting trauma into fiction can become a powerful emotional strategy for surviving traumatic events, which may provoke necessary changes in our cultural memory through collective sharing.

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VI. Icons of Mourning: India Song 243

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243 VI. Icons of Mourning: India Song J’avais trouvé le lieu pour dire la fin du monde. Le colonialisme, ici, c’est un détail, le colonialisme, la lèpre et la faim aussi. Je crois qu’ici la lèpre a gagné plus loin et la faim aussi. La faim, elle est aussi à venir, voyez, dans India Song, elle vient. La mort est partout dans India Song.1 Resulting from a long aesthetic development, India Song (1974) represents a full-blooded avant-garde film, where all the storylines of the India Cycle are tied together into the stratified cinematic world of a fictional India. It is a slow-paced rite of mourning that consists of a stylised revival of Anne-Marie Stretter’s life after her drowning in the Indian Ocean. The principal effect of the film relies on its visual seriality and palimpsestic soundtrack, which together reproduce the drama of the white colonialists of Calcutta in an entangled world of temporal and spatial duality. As Duras notes in a number of interviews, India Song would never have been created without its prior text of Le Vice-consul, which nurtured the film’s interfigural material.2 What provides an exceptional semiotic structure to its melodramatic form is the meta-layer of timeless narrative voices, origi- nally discovered in La Femme du Gange (1973). While the multiplicity of these voices recall all the individual trauma stories in India Song, the device does not only support its diegetic structure but also enriches the effect of a systematic desynchronisation of image and sound typical...

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