‘The Pure Number’ by Marguerite Duras, translated by Mark Polizotti

The boundary between fiction and essay in Marguerite Duras is quite slender. ‘The Pure Number’ destroys me in ways I’d rather not explain or describe.

First published as ‘Le Nombre Pur’ in Écrire, Gallimard, 1993. First published in translation in Writing, University of Minnesota Press, 2011

‘Moderato Cantabile’ by Marguerite Duras, trans. Richard Seaver

Another example of a short novel that demands to be taken in a single draught, my definition of short fiction. Read as a story of an almost-affair between two people brought together, as so often in Duras’s stories, by death and eroticism, it will leave you feeling bereft, that something was unsaid that should have been voiced. Read again, without the tension of wondering whether the affair is to be consummated, certain motifs become evident. Without psychological exposition, little plot and the barest of resolution, different readings become possible, almost blank pages that rest on the collaboration of reader and writer.

Published by John Calder, 1966, also available from Oneworld Classics, 2008