French novelist, dramatist, and screenwriter.
Born Marguerite Donadieu in Giadinh, Indochina, Duras went to France in 1931 and studied maths, law, and political science in Paris. Her first novel, Les Impudents, was published in 1942, but it was not until 1950, with the publication of Un Barrage contre le Pacifique (translated as A Sea of Troubles, 1953), that she made her name as a writer. The novel deals with an old woman's futile attempts to protect her home against the ravages of the ocean; set in Indochina, it is partly autobiographical and, like Duras's other early novels, neorealist in style.
Subsequent novels, such as Le Marin de Gibraltar (1952), Le Square (1955), Moderato cantabile (1958), and L'Après-midi de M. Andesmas (1962), carry recurrent themes of love and passion, alienation, and the passage of time. Duras's writing technique gradually became more experimental; in Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein (1964), L'Amante anglaise (1967), and L'Amour (1971), the line of narrative, characters, and settings are increasingly ill-defined. L'Amant (1984; filmed 1992) won both the Prix Goncourt and Ritz Paris Hemingway awards; subsequent works include the short-story collection La Douleur (1985) and Practicalities (1990). Duras also wrote plays, such as Les Viaducs de Seine-et-Oise (1960) and Les Eaux et forêts (1965), and collaborated in the cinematic adaptations of some of her novels. The best known of her film screenplays is Hiroshima mon amour, produced by Alain Resnais in 1960; others are L'Homme atlantique (1981) and Les Enfants (1985). She also directed several films, including Détruire dit elle (1961; Destroy She Said) and the experimental Agatha (1981).