It seems apt that the 4th movement of Mahler’s 2nd symphony, ‘Resurrection,’ accompanies the last words of Marguerite Duras’ novel The Malady of Death. The strains of the alto singing, “O red rose!/ Man lies in greatest need!/ Man lies in greatest pain!/ How I would rather be in heaven./ There came I upon a broad path when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away,” is equal to the discomfort of Duras’ story.
The Malady of Death is far from Duras’ finest work, but its sparseness jolted me on first reading. Today, it succeeds still in opening up a space for contemplation. The simple story can be read in one sitting. But it lingers. What remains is the magnificence, mingled with the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of knowing the other, and the unprovability of love. Unprovability? It is a word but is that what I mean?
When you wept it was just over yourself and not because of the marvellous impossibility of reaching her through the difference that separates you.