The Lover

ISBN: 0375700528
ISBN 13: 9780375700521
By: Marguerite Duras Barbara Bray

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About this book

An international best-seller with more than one million copies in print and a winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, The Lover has been acclaimed by critics all over the world since its first publication in 1984.Set in the prewar Indochina of Marguerite Duras’s childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. In spare yet luminous prose, Duras evokes life on the margins of Saigon in the waning days of France’s colonial empire, and its representation in the passionate relationship between two unforgettable outcasts.

Reader's Thoughts

Stela

Followed by an English versionJ’ai lu quelque part que Julia Kristeva avertissait les lecteurs d’un équilibre mental fragile de ne pas lire les œuvres de Marguerite Duras, parce qu’elles pourraient les amener près de l’expérience de la folie. Et que « L’amant », de ce point de vue, ne serait que l’histoire de la folie gothique de la mère de la narratrice, à laquelle cette dernière essaie de s’échapper en effaçant son image.L’hypothèse est séduisante, mais elle ne couvre qu’une partie de ce mini roman dont le thème principal est, c’est vrai, la famille (le deuxième thème, l’amour, n’est qu’un prétexte pour mieux mettre en évidence le premier). Une famille marquée par la folie, le crime et la mort, à laquelle la narratrice voit la chance de s’échapper dès sa première rencontre avec son futur amant : « Dès qu’elle a pénétré dans l’auto noire elle l’a su, elle est à l’écart de cette famille pour la première fois et pour toujours. » Et c’est le rôle de l’amant de produire la rupture en incarnant, paradoxalement, tous les images masculines de la famille : le père (« j’étais devenue son enfant »), le frère aîné (« par la chambre passe l’ombre d’un jeune assassin » ) et le petit frère (« par la chambre passe l’ombre d’un jeune chasseur »). Et je pense que c’est ici qu'on trouve la stylistique du changement de focalisation qui apparaît presque chaque fois que la narratrice évoque les scènes d’amour, en changeant la première personne de la voix narrative avec la troisième. En objectivant sa relation, elle la transforme dans la pierre milliaire de son destin, le moment de la fuite, de la rupture ; non nécessairement le récit d’un couple, car cette Lolita n’a pas d’Humbert et ce Roméo n’a pas de Juliette – mais le récit du chemin vers l’expérience, commencé à quinze ans et demi avec la révolte qui mènera à la séparation de la mère qui vit seulement pour le frère aîné, du frère aîné qui vit seulement pour profiter matériellement de sa famille et du petit frère qui s’en meurt en achevant ainsi cette séparation. Le symbole de ce chemin est la photo imaginaire de la traversée du fleuve Mékong, souvenir autour duquel se construit la narration dont la motivation semble être sublimer l’image de la famille par l’entremise de l’écriture. Et c’est notamment l’image de la mère qui doit être sublimée par l'art, la mère qui faisait honte à la jeune fille à cause de ses vêtements, la mère qui continuait à entretenir son fils aîné même quand il avait 50 ans et qui veut qu’il soit enterré auprès d’elle, la mère qui « n’était pas malade de sa folie, elle la vivait comme la santé », la mère qui, au moment du récit est depuis longtemps morte : « C’est pourquoi j’en écris si facile d’elle maintenant, si long, si étiré, elle est devenue écriture courante. » Adrienne Rich remarquait d’ailleurs que la relation mère – fille met en évidence « the heart of maternal darkness ».Secondaire peut-être comme importance, mais toujours poignante, l’histoire de l’amour entre la fille de quinze ans et demi et « l’homme de Cholen » de 37 ans, est mise sous le signe de l’interdiction et du manque d’espoir. La jeune fille s’interdit d’analyser ses sentiments pour son amant, parce qu’elle sait bien que leur relation n’a pas d’avenir à cause des différences raciales et sociales mais aussi parce qu’elle le méprise un peu pour son incapacité de lutter contre son père. Ses émotions se décantent seulement le moment où elle quitte à jamais l’Indochine et son amant : « …elle avait pleuré. Elle l’avait fait sans montrer ses larmes, parce qu’il était Chinois et qu’on ne devait pas pleurer ce genre d’amants. » Elle se rend finalement compte que son amour avait été plus grand qu’elle ne le croyait, éternel à travers la séparation comme « plus tard l’éternité du petit frère à travers la mort» Dans ce contexte, le final du roman révèle les connotations du début : le « visage détruit » de la narratrice, évoqué sur la première page comme plus beau que celui de sa jeunesse est le visage de l’amour contre qui le temps ne peut rien faire. En effet, des années plus tard, quand l’amant vient à Paris avec sa femme et lui téléphone seulement pour entendre sa voix, la résignation tranquille de sa déclaration résonne en dehors de l’éphémère: « Et puis il le lui avait dit. Il lui avait dit que c’était comme avant, qu’il l’aimait encore, qu’il ne pourrait jamais cesser de l’aimer, qu’il l’aimerait jusqu’à sa mort. » A friend of mine who cannot read French asked me to put my review in English for her, because she loved the book very much and wanted to know my opinion. Honoured and delighted, of course, I did it, but after finishing it I feel somehow “lost in translation” ☺, not so sure I succeeded in expressing accurately my opinions. So, if this review sounds a little forced to you, remember it’s only a rendition, and not a very neat one.I read somewhere that Julia Kristeva warned the readers with fragile sanity not to read Marguerite Duras’ works, because they could get them close to the experience of madness. And that "The Lover", from this point of view, could be the history of the Gothic madness of the narrator’s mother, and the escape of the latter by writing her off.The hypothesis is attractive, but it covers only a part of this novella whose main theme is, it is true, the family (the second theme, love, is mainly an excuse to better emphasize the first). A family marked by madness, crime and death, from which the narrator sees a chance to escape when she meets her future lover: "As soon as she entered the black car she knew, she was away from that family for the first time and forever." And it’s the lover’s role to generate this rupture by embodying, paradoxically, all the masculine images of the family: the father ("I became his child"), the elder brother ("through the room passes the shadow of a young assassin") and the little brother ("through the room passes the shadow of a young hunter"). And I think this is the explanation for the change of perspective that appears almost every time the narrator evokes the love scenes, commuting from the first-person narrative voice to the third. By objectifying her relationship, she transforms it into the milestone of her own destiny, the moment of evasion, rupture; that’s why this is not necessarily the story of a couple, because this Lolita has no Humbert and this Romeo has no Juliet - but the story of the path to experience, started at the age of fifteen and a half with the revolt that would lead to the separation from the mother who lives only for the elder brother, from the elder brother who lives only to exploit his family and from the little brother who dies, thus completing the separation.And it’s especially the image of the mother that should be exorcised by art, the mother whom the girl was ashamed because of her clothes, the mother who continued to maintain her eldest son even when he was 50 years old and who wants him be buried beside her, the mother who "was not sick of her madness, she lived it like health," the mother who, at the time of the story, is long dead: "That's why I find it so easy to write about her now, so long, so stretched, she became handwriting." Adrienne Rich noted that the mother - daughter relationship highlights "the heart of darkness maternal."Perhaps of secondary importance, but still poignant is the love story between the fifteen-year-old girl and the 37-year-old "man of Cholen", placed under the sign of interdiction and lack of hope. The girl is not to analyse her feelings for her lover since she knows that their relationship has no future because of the racial and social differences but also since she despises him a bit for his inability to fight against his father. Her emotions settle only when she leaves Indochina and her lover forever: "... she cried. She did not show her tears, because he was Chinese and we should not cry for this kind of lovers." She finally realizes that her love had been greater than she had thought, that it entered eternity through separation as "later the eternity of the little brother through death "In this context, the end of the novel discloses the connotations of the beginning: narrator’s "destroyed face" mentioned on the first page as more beautiful than her younger one, is the face of love against which time can do nothing. Years later, when the lover comes to Paris with his wife and phones her just to hear her voice, the quiet resignation of his statement resonates outside the story: "And then he told her. He told her that it was like before, that he still loved her, that he would never stop loving her, that he would love her until his death.”

Lia

I first picked this up a couple of years ago. I remember liking it but I didn't finish it, probably because it was due back at the library and I had fines already, that's usually the story of why I haven't finished a book. Anyway, without realising (and perhaps indirectly through that Écriture féminine stuff), Duras is enormously influential on how I write memoir. Particularly she's influenced how I write about sex - or not even sex but encounters in which there is some sense of eros, or erotic potential, however flimsy and remote. Last year I read The War for school and the stuff I wrote around that time has really clear flashes of her style. I don't know if Duras has a bisexual identity - I have assumed not, as I haven't found reference to it anywhere - but there is definitely a queer sensibility to her writing. I mean, it's hard to say if it's queer or feminist - like Anais Nin, she could be criticised for essentialising woman/female/femininity - but it is defiant and complex. She writes a female body that is both unavailable, and aggressive in its desire, and so vividly embodied in all its relations (where often women's bodies disappear except in relation to men's). This really appeals to me.I didn't like Maxine Hong Kingston's introduction in this edition though - I found it terribly gauche and sort of pointless.

Ian Paganus

DesireThe first time ever I saw your face was on the ferry.I had my head buried in a copy of the South China Morning Post. My father had said, if I read it every day, I would learn about the world around us, and his boy would become a man. Only then would I be ready to take over the family business after him.He was right, in his way. I was thin and soft and naïve, even though I had just returned from two years in Paris. I was still a boy, at 28. I’m sure I would have continued as a boy, unless I had met you.I had slept with many girls in Paris, and I bedded plenty more after you, before I married my wife, a virgin until our wedding night. But I didn't sleep with any of these girls out of love or even desire. I fucked them because I could. They came to me eager to be fucked, and we all knew the reason, my family’s wealth and increasing prominence in Saigon. They all came to me, because they wanted something that my father had.My father was not an egotistical man. He did not display pride or shame. He did everything out of duty, even make money, buy property, run a department store and build wealth. But when it came to the girls I slept with (not you), and he always found out about them, he took some delight in my sexual activity. No matter how attractive each one was, he knew that by sleeping with them, I was actually disqualifying them from the race to be my wife and share his wealth. Everyone I slept with narrowed it down to the one I would eventually marry.I looked up from the Post, some article on inflation, and I saw you taking a seat opposite me. I gazed at you longer than I should have.Everything about you was wrong. You were Caucasian, white, 15 ½ years old, slim, you were wearing a flowing dress that alternately swayed in the breeze or clung to your body, outlining and highlighting your petite breasts. And you were wearing a man’s fedora and gold shoes.Once I took all of this in, I tried to resume reading the Post. I was looking down at the page, but I couldn’t distinguish a single word, I was thinking of you and I was shaking. Like a boy.Later the same week, we happened to be on the same ferry again. I didn’t see you on board, but when my father’s driver (until recently, when he retired, my driver) opened the door to the limousine, I noticed that you were standing near the waterline, apparently deciding what you would do next.I went up to you, determined to offer you a ride in my car, I mean my father’s car. You were apprehensive at first, but I reassured you of my good faith, and you decided to accept. It helped that I was shaking the whole way through our brief discussion.While we were talking, we stood side on, so that my driver could see both of us, the sides of our faces and the hints of nervous smiles. Something must have touched him, unless he did it out of a sense of duty to my father, for he took a photo of us that day.He gave it to me when he retired 10 years ago. I have carried it with me, in my wallet, every day since then. Until today, I haven’t pulled it out and looked at it again. I didn’t need to. That moment, in my eyes, has been engraved in my mind for fifty years. The only difference is that the image confirms that I was there, that it wasn’t all in my imagination, you can see both of us. The image is true, and so now is my memory. Only I’m not sure whether I ever wanted to be reminded. It’s not that the photo reminds me of a time when I was a boy. After all, it was you who made me a man, not reading the Post.Like my father before me, I am a man of duty. I have faithfully taken care of my wife, my family, my family’s business. Everything has grown under my watchful and caring eye. I have done the right thing, and I will die a contented man, if contentment is what I am looking for.No, what that photo and that moment remind me of is my capacity for desire. It is something I eliminated from my field of vision after we parted company, at my parents’ insistence, and you returned to Paris, I thought, with your mother.I already knew the rudimentary mechanics of sex when we stood before each other, a skinny Chinese boy and a skinny French girl, in my bedroom for the first time. As I had done before, I was shaking. Even my tentative erection looked as if it might shake off and fall to the floor. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny then.Until I met you, I had been lonely. I was even lonelier after I had met you, because of the obsessive love I had for you.You said, “I’d rather you didn’t love me, but if you do, I’d like you to do as you usually do with women.”I asked, “Is that what you want?”You nodded. Still I knew that you would never love me, that you could never love me.I said, “You’ve come here with me as you might have gone anywhere with anyone.”You replied, “I can’t say, so far I’ve never gone into a bedroom with anyone.”You begged me, again, to do what I usually did with the women I brought to my room.I did my best to comply. Although you were a virgin, I made love to you the way you directed me to. It was different to how I normally did it, well there was one difference, I wept while we made love.The driver soon learned about you, and so did my father. He could tell I felt differently about you, that I wasn’t disqualifying you, that I wanted to marry this white girl, even though you would never love me in return.He made his position very clear.“I will not let my son marry this little white whore from Sadec.”I tried to obliterate his attitude from my thinking. But it must have affected me subliminally. In bed, as we fucked more and more passionately, I would call out, “My whore, my slut, you are my only love.” And you and I and my cum and your juices and our sweat would be swept up in a torrent of desire.For a long time, it seemed as if that torrent would never stop. I didn’t know where the waters sprang from, but I definitely didn’t know where they were heading.My father did, and so he built a dam that would contain the flow, and one day the torrent just stopped.Loving you had made me a man, he knew that, as I did, and although we disagreed wildly, I was reconciled to my future in the family business.As my father loosened his grip on the reins and handed them over to me, I expanded to two and then eventually five department stores, and then years later with such a solid foundation, I started investing in shopping centres in Australia, until my family became the largest private holder of retail real estate in the country.Like my father, I am not an egotistical man or a proud one. I do this because of duty. But there was a moment when I contented myself with a smile. I had just signed a contract to purchase a centre in Australia for A$30 million. I signed a cheque for a A$3M deposit and gave it to the Vendor’s lawyer. A youngish fellow, he decided to phone my banker and ask whether I had sufficient funds in my account to clear the cheque. The banker asked what the total sale price was. The lawyer answered, and my banker laughed. “There are enough funds in this account to pay the entire sale price in cash.”The lawyer turned to me, squeamishly, and declared that we had a deal. I said, “I was under the impression we had a deal before you phoned my bank.”I enquired after that lawyer once. It turned out he had married one of my property managers and was now running a coffee shop, ironically in one of my centres.I have two daughters. They run our portfolio, and they do a more professional job of it than either I or my father ever did.Perhaps, my father was better at taking risks than they are, but to be honest they are pretty good at it. I am proud of them, and he would be too. They have married well, and have given me four beautiful grandchildren.As I said, I have carried our photo in my wallet for many years, ever since I learned of its existence.Any other man in my position would possibly say that they had everything that they had ever desired.For me, that is true, except in one sense that I have tried to overlook for fifty years.I once desired you, that skinny white French girl in the fedora. I desired you with an intensity that I cannot find words to describe.I have tried to rationalise and deny that desire. I’ve tried to convince myself that I only ever desired you once. And that is actually the truth. I did only desire you once, but that one occasion has lasted fifty years.Now that I am about to die, or think I am, and my family will soon gather around me to say their farewells, I must take a match to this photo and set it alight, like you once set me alight, and perhaps, I will never know, perhaps I also set you alight, if not for as long.My favourite nurse just brought me an ashtray and a cigarette lighter. It took me two or three attempts to burn this image. It didn’t seem to want to go.But now it is finished and there are only ashes in the tray, and my failing memory, and when I die and it too goes, there will be nothing left of our desire. Mural at the Pawpaw Cafe attached to the Brisbane Restaurant "Green Papaya"

Célia Loureiro

(Demorei dois dias a reunir 'material' para fazer esta review)Raramente me acontece estar perante uma situação/livro/discurso que não suscite nada em mim. Isto é, que não me indigne, nem fascine, nem horrorize, nem apaixone. Este livro, infelizmente, foi assim. Reconheço que está maravilhosamente escrito e que as reviravoltas textuais da cabeça da narradora, a própria rapariga branca, nos levam por labirintos existentes em nós próprios. Mas importar-me com ela? Não me importei. Nem com ela nem com a família dela. O irmão mais velho é um bandido. Conheço alguns assim; roubam à família para sustentar vícios, destroem-se e à família com o dito. O "irmãozinho" é um doce, demasiado fraco para erguer sequer a voz, sendo por isso o receptáculo de toda a ternura da irmã. A mãe destes três irmãos é um ser alheado, inconsistente por natureza, que não esconde que apenas ao filho mais velho tudo tolera. É uma mulher marcada pela perda do marido e pela malícia do filho mais velho. Esconde os seus bens nos lençóis de casa. A menina branca é ávida de viver e de aprender. Tirando este escandaloso caso com um chinês (que, apesar de milionário), objecto de grande preconceito e desdém por parte da sua família. Tem momentos de vulnerabilidade, mas nunca tive pena dela. Quanto ao chinês, ama-a e é por ela desprezado e humilhado ao sabor do humor oscilante da jovem de 15 anos. A história é compreensível, porque penso que nem a própria narradora sabe se o amava ou não. Começa o livro ao dizer que aos 18 anos já era tarde demais para si, o que me faz crer que já tinha deixado fugir-lhe a felicidade por entre os dedos. Também pode referir-se à velhice que diz que lhe tomara já o rosto, devido a todos os desgostos e angústias que a família lhe traz. De momento fiquei sem o bichinho de ler mais Marguerite Duras. Vejamos no futuro.Baixei a classificação 2 dias depois de 4 para 3,5. Isto é: o livro é bonito em termos literários, por vezes entrei em comunhão com os sentimentos das personagens. Mas não voltei a pensar neles.

James

An astonishing novella of insight, Marguerite Duras depicts the controversial love affair between a pubescent French girl, and her older Chinese lover. Set against the backdrop of the tense French colonial vision, Duras' Saigon is oppressive, strange and juxtaposing. The novel is one of relationships and how that takes on physical space; not merely content with writing a novella on love, Duras explores imperialism, the family dynamic, and perhaps most importantly female sexuality. Having grown up and rarely seen a book which deals so frankly about such a large percentage of the population, I think this should be seminal reading for young girls, in the same way that 'Catcher in the Rye' captures a generation. However, unlike Salinger, this Prix-Goncourt winning novella is complex and beautiful, stylistically innovative, shifting in and out of retrospection, narrators, stories and points of view. There's a wonderful cinematic quality to the events - which would be apt because Duras wrote the much more famous screenplay for 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' - and a very artistic approach to objects and scenes: the nameless narrator's distinct hat, her gold lamé shoes, the black limousine of her Chinese lover. The novella, short as it is, abounds in simplicity and evocative prose: the writing though simplistic is undoubtedly nouveau roman, on the heels of modernism, and able to carry with it the fresh, hypnotising take on a very old theme.

Luís

Dramatic,intense memories of an aging Frenchwoman with emphasis on her teens.They unfold during the 1920s and -30s in French Indo-China,today's Laos,Vietnam and Cambodia. The father,a senior colonial official died when she was a toddler.What remained was a family from hell,headed by a mother who does everything wrong.Her dissolute,elder son who is her favorite,terrorizes her younger son and daughter.A headless,autistic family emerges whose members do not talk with,look at,or greet each other.But the elder brother and Mother beat up the younger daughter and son routinely amidst deepening poverty.Because of the mother's terrible investments.Because of her firstborn's bad karma;he steals even from the servants.On a ferry across the Mekong river,the teenage narrator is invited by a 27-years old Chinese millionaire and is driven to her boarding school in his large,black,chauffeur-driven car.What follows reveals Duras' powers of description,which served her well as a movie director in later life.The white 15½-year old,skinny,weirdly-dressed girl and the Chinese man begin an affair.He is obsessed with her but his father has long ago arranged his marriage.She does not love him,but enjoys the near-death climaxes of their encounters and has vague hopes all this will open a window of opportunity: she has willfully chosen a fate the ruling whites in the colony disapprove of.In school,it isolates her more than ever before.Her aim?Who knows?Fleeing mother and the devilish brother,the heat,the hopeless poverty and life's chaos to some quiet,secure place to write about her ordeal,then about other,new experiences?Respecting French literature made into movies,I saw a movie a few days ago in which the very author of this work is also the author of a film shot in 1975,which has the same kind of the finished book read for me.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_SongIndia Song,1975 - Marguerite Duras - Film DirectorMarguérite Duras (1914-96) was a novelist,scriptwriter,playwright and film director.The version in front of you became a successful movie in 1992,despite a conflict between Duras and its makers: shortly before its première she published "The North China Lover",another version of her formative years...Grand,small novel filled with deep anger and hatred. Marguerite Duraswas so troubled,speechless in disgust about her youth,that it took her several efforts to put it all on paper.To be read more than once.

Ben

I loved The Lover. Stylistically, thematically, and philosophically it is the kind of book I long to write. One problem - I'd have to be French to pull off some it's stances (postures?) Regardless, I feel like this is the sister book to Camus' The Stranger. It is well worth watching Hiroshima Mon Amour after reading for like the total Duras overload. I walked around able to read and speak French fluently for an entire afternoon afterward.

Theresa

This is my favorite book ever. I first came across the story when I was 13; baby-sitting one weekend at a neighbor's house. But I didn't actually read the book until I was 21 and it changed my life. Marguerite Duras's prose is so powerful that I have full paragraphs memorized. Each sentence is pure poetry. Not everyone will get it, but it hit me like a ligthening bolt. I felt like someone reached inside & took a look at my soul & then wrote my innermost secrets down. I love Marguerite Duras because she is not afraid to dig deep & then unveil the darker, sadder, but more real sides of her heart. I am not kidding - I love this book so much that I'll never forget it. But other people may not get hit with it like I did. "Very early in my life, it was too late" - Marguerite Duras

Roxane

This is what they mean when they say, "lush prose."

Remittance Girl

It is extremely difficult for me to give this book an adequate review because, as a writer of erotic fiction, its interiority and opentextedness, its subtle and powerful eroticism (not of the love affair, but of the entire atmosphere of the novel) were formative for me as a writer.There is a spare and adamantine beauty to the prose that is both immersive and yet, somehow, leaves enough space for the reader to breathe inside the text. It is worth mentioning that the book is not erotic in the way the film is. It's haunted with a sense of despair. And that's really where its eroticism lies.I have used it often as an exemplar for why setting and circumstance are the most effective ways to lay bare a character and render them vulnerable to the eroticism that follows. I've also used it as an example of why many erotic novels start too late in the story to really fully explore the dynamics of choice. Finally, it is a great example of how it is desire that fuels eroticism, not sex.I don't believe anyone would ever feel they'd wasted their time reading this book.

karen

i found myself utterly muted by this book, which is problematic because the book club meets this friday, and they aren't going to be so dazzled by my bruschetta that i can get away with just hiding behind the tiny jewess and drinking their wine. so i have to think of something. consulting the "reading group handbook" by rachel w. jacobsohn, bought for my final school assignment, i learn how to think about literature:characters and story line: young french girl, older chinese man falling into bed and clinical love without names in indochina. character's actions: she has poor unsatisfying home life, he has rich traditional home life. they bang. everything seems muffled by gauze.reader's emotional response: unmoved. if the author's voice is going to be so removed, and the characters aren't going to feel anything particularly deep, why should i be expected to have emotions? it's like watching people fucking with a wall in between them, masturbating at each other. resentfully.narrative: fragmentary, past/present conflation, surface-emotions only. short, poetic musings which are occasionally quite lyrical, but never caught at me. oh, man, i have zero to say about it. i don't know - people love this book, but i am not one of them. wish me luck.readers, thinkers and drinkers jan 2010.

Bistra Ivanova

Спомням си, че за първи път я прочетох в един студен зимен следобед в 11 клас, когато бях станала в 6.30 (за първа смяна) и едва се държах будна. Тогава никак не ме впечатли и даже май не я дочетох. Съвсем случайно обаче снощи я отворих отново (търсех нещо тънко) и останах възхитена! Книга на книгите! Както пише на корицата - това са малки поеми в проза. Изключително красиви, дълбоки, талантливи. Дюрас е изрязала всичко излишно. От цялата история е останало най-силното. Някои фрази разкриват цели нови пластове. Ракурсът на повествованието постоянно се сменя. Запетаите в изреченията сякаш нямат край, но носят една особена деликатност на изказа. Преводачката Силвия Вагенщайн пък заслужава поздрав, защото е направила всичко да звучи чудесно на български. Дюрас ме заинтригува особено, откакто прочетох онази статия на Виргиния Захариева в Леуропео преди няколко месеца. Оттогава се сещам за нея и ми се чете. Някой по-запознат с творчестото й, би ли споделил препоръки и мнения, моля? Като въздействие върху мен бих сравнила книгата с Часовете на Кънингам - четох - в леглото, в чакалнята, в парка, на дивана - по няколко пъти всеки абзац с молив и истинска наслада. И знам, че ще го направя пак.

Bruce

The narrative is highly convoluted, emphasizing that life has no singular line, no linear pattern. The prose is a mosaic, digressive and allusive, setting the stage for a story told in retrospect of the adolescence of a French girl in Saigon, poor, interruptedly educated, living with her mother who seems bipolar and younger brother, her older brother having been sent to school in France. Telling her story in the first person, the narrator, speaking as an old woman in France, confesses that her life was shaped by drink and desire. The style at the beginning is almost like a rambling set of reminiscences, gradually circling inward to focus on a particular day when she was fifteen and a half, on a ferry going to Saigon. It is striking that so many of the narrator’s descriptions of herself involve her appearance – her hair, her bodily characteristics, her clothing, her physical sensations. Granted that these may be the preoccupations of a mid-adolescent, these are the descriptions of an elderly lady remembering events from her youth, and I might have expected more interest or insights into her emotionally responses to her life at that time. She has a curious way of alternating between past and present tenses, the former usually referring to times before she was fifteen and a half, the latter referring to her experiences at that age. She also alternates telling her story between using first- and third-person narrative, although the former predominates.Her relationship with her mother is characterized by ambivalence, love alternating with hate, and that is consistent with a person of her age, I think. First her younger brother dies, then, after WWII, her mother. By the time of the story her older brother, her last surviving family member and a sociopath, is dead too. She neither misses nor loves them any longer, her love having died with her younger brother. On the ferry that day, the ferry to Saigon, she is approached by a rich young Chinese man. Realizing her power over him, she enters his limousine and goes with him, her life changing in that moment. Why does this happen? Why does she let it happen? She recalls feeling fated, as if the time had come for something like this to happen, for her to leave her family irrevocably. Of course they become lovers (although that is a bit of a misnomer, since the narrator adamantly refuses to let “love” be a component of the relationship), but the becoming so for her involves a strange passivity on her part, a fatedness, even as she is aware that her power over him is supreme. The characters, who are never named, seem almost archetypal. Relationships are primal, physical and sensual, mixed on the part of the narrator with the practical awareness that she is attracted not only by physical desire but by wealth, her background of physical impoverishment making that attraction understandable.In interactions between her family and her lover, issues of race block all possibility of mutual understanding. The narrator in these situations is pulled in both directions, becoming a person other than who she is with either alone. Duras is very perceptive about the psychology governing these encounters and responses. Her family members themselves interact among themselves only with difficulty, all three siblings loving the increasingly despondent and immobilized mother but seemingly abhorring each other, except for the girl and her younger brother who are important to each other. Do the difficulties with love, intimacy, and dependency within the family make the narrator vulnerable to difficulties in her relationships with people outside the family, especially to her seeking an odd kind of impersonal sexual relationship, one focusing on physicality without emotional ties? The narrator later becomes consumed with desire for a fellow classmate, Helene Lagonelle, desiring not only her body but for Helene to make love to the Chinese. The narrative increasingly breaks down into short choppy paragraphs, small musings and memories, often apparently unrelated to each other. Now she wants to grow up to be a writer. Now she is with her lover. Now she thinks of Helene. And then Helene disappears from the story.Nearing the end, the story suggests subliminal issues of incest and pedophilia. And one begins to understand that the intense desire for physical pleasure, for the submersion of self in sensuality, is a denial of both external everyday reality and also, in a strange way, of death itself, even as, paradoxically, death sometimes seems desirable. At times the narrative seems to be a study of the moral deterioration of the French, and by extension of any colonial power, in one of their colonies. It certainly is an examination of racial politics. But one senses that there is something more primordial than this, a sense that the novel is an actual experiencing of a transition from childhood to adulthood in the context of a unique and absolutely individual life, a life that is a product of both circumstances and her response to those circumstances. And one of Duras’ accomplishments is her ability to universalize this single life story, to tap into feelings and experiences of her readers such that the story becomes part each reader, even resurrecting memories and feelings buried deep in the past, far down in the individual psyche. This is an odd and compelling work, well worth reading, a work whose prose is beautiful, poetic, and often spell-binding.

Vanessa Wu

I tried to read this in French and I was lost. It is so simple and short, I kept thinking. Why don't I understand it? Then I tried to read it in English. It was still really difficult for me. I was puzzled because I had read other books by Marguerite Duras and I understood them intuitively. Then it dawned on me that the reason this is so hard to understand is that it is intensely real. The author near the end of her life is carefully delivering to the world the painful and beautiful secrets that she has carried buried deep within her since childhood. I imagine each sentence took an age to write. Some are beautiful. Some are achingly sad. It is a book to be taken seriously. It is the very best kind of book.

Ron Palmer

I finally finished Marguerite Duras' "The Lover." Why did it take me this long to read a 117-page novel? (I posted it on my currently-reading shelf on Feb. 25th). [HINT: It is not because I didn't want it to end.]Was it the nature of the writing: random, unconnected musings by une femme d'un certain age of her colonial adolescence? Was it the frustrating way she shifted subjects, time, and place at will? Maybe it is the movie-lover in me (I don't want to reveal too much about myself (foreignfilmguy.blogspot.com). But I kept thinking this novel would work better as a screenplay, a la Alain Resnais' "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" (about a French woman's affair with an Asian man). Then I remembered: that was also written by Mme. Duras!As a film, the story sharpens its focus on the two lovers, while dispensing with the 'crazy mother' subplot that much too often interrupts the flow of the narrative. In short: the movie was better.

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