The Ravishing of Lol Stein

ISBN: 0394743040
ISBN 13: 9780394743042
By: Marguerite Duras Richard Seever

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About this book

Lol Stein is a beautiful young woman, securely married, settled in a comfortable life--and a voyeur. Returning with her husband and children to the town where, years before, her fiance had abandoned her for another woman, she is drawn inexorably to recreate that long-past tragedy.

Reader's Thoughts

Aaron (Typographical Era)

Who is the person behind the mystery voice that’s narrating The Ravishing of Lol Stein? That’s the first question that immediately comes to mind as you start reading this stunning experimental piece from Marguerite Duras. This person’s explanation of unfeeling Lol’s (short for Lola) past, as relayed to them by her best friend Tatiana Karl, seems to start off innocently enough, but then it quite jarringly takes a turn for strange when they basically call her out as a liar:I no longer believe a word Tatiana says.I’m convinced of absolutely nothing. The backstory they are explaining to the reader revolves around Lol’s engagement at age nineteen to a wealthy man named Michael Richardson. This fine upstanding gentleman takes Lol to a dance at the Town Beach Casino Ballroom and then proceeds to romance a foxy cougar named Anne-Marie Stretter right in front of his shocked fiancée’s face. As she watches the two pull closer together over the course of the evening, Lol slowly descends into a type of muted madness, and when the pair eventually leave together at the end of the night, she loses consciousness altogether. This traumatic turn of events will leave Lol clinically depressed and mentally imbalanced for life…or will it? Just how much should we trust that which what our nameless, judgmental narrator is trying to sell us?READ MORE:


In a word: hypnotic. Yet also, startling. This was recommended to me by a creative writing professor I had in college, after reading a short story I wrote involving a female protagonist who was similar to Lol. There are moments when, as one reviewer said, Marguerite Duras puts such a spell on the reader with the way she uses language, that the reader almost feels "drugged". It's a haunting, erotic novel of intersecting characters driven by loss, obsession and voyeurism. Lol is shattered by a trauma that leaves a cut so deep, she can never pick up the pieces and become a whole person. Instead, she lives the shadow of a real life and lives vicariously through her voyeurism of Jacques & Tatiana. Meanwhile, through a deft shift in perspective, the reader also gets to glimpse a man's obsession and addiction to an elusive, enigmatic, 'damaged' woman/personality. As I remember it, there is nothing erotic about the love scene between Jacques & Lol when it finally occurs; it is, in fact, so unerotic it's startling & slightly disturbing. While there is a palpable attraction between these two characters, I interpreted it as the final manifestation of Lol's inability to feel. She may be able to live vicariously through others, but she cannot, or will not, allow herself to feel, experience genuine pleasure or any genuine emotion for that matter. The pain of her past has paralyzed her emotionally. When I think of Lol Stein, the words that come to mind are, 'fragility', 'instability' and 'paralysis'. As I said earlier, it's a hypnotic character study of a life defined and structured by tragedy and its aftermath, yet also a novel delving into the elements of attraction, obsession and possession.

Phoenix Kaur

I would venture to suspect that this book has as-yet undiscovered profound implications for me on a personal level. I read it twice years ago, in 1989, and again in 1997. Most recently, in 2011, I found my way to an essay upon, primarily this novel, but also Marguerite Duras' and Alain Renais' 1959 movie: "Hiroshima, Mon Amour". The essay was written by Emily, and it spiraled me into a place I was unsure of, but quite curious about. I read the essay while processing what I had learned from the Kundalini Yoga Level 2 training: Authentic Relationships, and while recovering from an emotionally painful surgery. On the morning after completing the requirements to receive my certificate for my fourth Level 2 module: Lifestyles & Lifecycles, I am met with this realization:We have the capacity to heal our 'stories' and transform them profoundly into something new, something much different. Words can heal. Words can harm.I am struck, currently, at the words which I read of others about the devastation of the oceans from the Fukushima disaster and the apparent ignorance of the gravity of it, because it hasn't really affected us yet. People can forget the compassion they felt for Japan after the earthquake back in 2011, and blame the victim. I see that happening. People can entirely misunderstand the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, and say some incredibly insensitive things, without even meaning to do so, or very well meaning to do so. People can even be unaware, and unable to enter into another's story enough, that they might be so gauche as to blame the sufferings of the Holocaust even upon it's victims, but...People can also engage in what was suggested in the text from my very 1st Kundalini Yoga Level 2 Module, Authentic Relationships: "...All this can happen with simple words. Words and Naad. If you let yourself merge into prem; if you just let yourself be selfless for a moment; if you let yourself feel the energy of that story, it can heal lifetimes ~not just what happened last week --but lifetimes, because it helps you change your story." ~p. 150 of that textAnd it was written in relationship to the practice of the Mere Man Lochai Shabd from Shabd Hazaray. Emily's essay + Duras' & Renais movie "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" + 4 KRI Level 2s beginning with Authentic Relationships = slowly slipping into prem, but not without some degree of trepidation. Changing our stories is as profound a transformation as emerging from a chrysalis.Can we all just become butterflies? Can we change our stories as some of the creative and resilient children of Hiroshima and of Auschwitz did? Those children who survived to become adults? Through boundless imagination? It is not just a gift given to the young. We can imagine. We can dream. And it can become our new reality.We can read books like "The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein" and screenplays like "Hiroshima, Mon Amour", and find a depth that can allow us to see how our own personal stories can change, can become larger than us, large enough to embrace the pain of the whole world and transform it through imagination, and a willingness to do what Emily alluded to in her essay that I read, which is to allow our memories to cease being so sharp, to allow them to transform through "frequent applications of new experience." Not to forget, really, but just to heal, and to create a new story. And I will re-read this book finally. It is time again.


Mon premier contact avec l'oeuvre de Marguerite Duras fut à travers "Le ravissement de Lol V.Stein". Un petit roman solitaire , délaissé, que je découvris en fouillant dans la bibliothèque de mes grands parents. Le titre me parut envoûtant. Et je fus conquise dès les premières lignes.. Le style d'écriture de Marguerite Duras est très hypnotisant, je trouve. C'est ce qui pourrait, en réalité, nous attacher à ses oeuvres ,jugées par la majorité des lecteurs très "ambigus", "flottants"... À mon avis, ces caractères peuvent,en effet, en faire d'excellents compagnons à toute personne espérant se détacher d'une vie quotidienne dont le rythme s'avère très accéléré..


1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die group read.Reading this one for a group read. Why? I like torture? I don't know folks... yeah it's kinda dreamy and poetic, stream-of-consciousness writing... but it's boring. Does anything happen, I mean HAPPEN to these people? lol Ok... I'm going to finish it because I'm half-way through and it reads fast... but I'm yawning folks. Plus, I find I'm flipping back and forth trying to figure out who's saying what. Maybe something got lost in the translation, which is sadly so often true. Well... I finished the book. I can't say it really was a book I had to read before I died. Wonder why they call it the "ravishing" of Lol Stein. Not much ravishing going on with all the clandestine sex going on. lol


"Mais si, Marguerite Duras, vous connaissez… l'apologiste sénile des infanticides ruraux", "la papesse gâteuse des caniveaux bouchés" qui n'écrit que "des romans de cul à l'alcool de rose"… "Marguerite Duras qui n'a pas écrit que des conneries, hein… elle en a aussi filmé !"

Suzanne Moore

Ever since her fiance left her for an older woman at a dance that was supposed to be a preliminary wedding celebration, I think Lol Stein began “walking” through life as a voyeur. She has been seeing her world through eyes of a outsider. In other words she is physically present, but not fully aware or participating in living her life. Obviously she sinks into depression after being jilted. Months later she is presumably rescued by the man she will marry, but this marriage turns out to be a loveless one. She sees herself in the role of wife and mother, but doesn't ever feel like it's who she is. Moving back to her hometown after being away for ten years strengthens the yearning she had for her first love who she has never forgotten. She takes to walking the streets downtown with hopes of running into him. Of course he no longer lives here, having moved away with the women he left her for. She does see an old friend, Tatiana, who happened to be her comfort the night her fiance disappeared. Talking with Tatiana, she learns that her friend, a married woman, is involved in an affair with Jack Hold (who narrates the story). She purposefully plans other solitary walks to coincide with Tatiana's rendezvous. It is now that her “self-voyeurism” (my own applied interpretation) is transferred to another. Lol, lies in a field of rye across from the building where Tatiana and Jack meet up and fixes her view on a window where she sees their silhouettes. It is Jack who notices her watching them and he makes it possible for her to see their tryst more clearly. Jack is definitely turned on by the thought of being watched and he begins to plan for a time he can get Lol alone. Lol and Jack eventually end up spending the night together in a strange town. Still Lol's “insanity” keeps her distant and unable to feel a connection. Her emotional baggage keeps her in a voyeuristic dream-like state. Jack tells the story of this scarred woman and leaves me with the impression that he is damaged in some way himself.Often when reading I recall a song that reminds me in some way of the story. With this book I kept hearing Bob Dylan's song “Love Sick.” These verses in particular complement the Ravishing of Lol Stein quite well … I’m walking through streets that are dead. Walking, walking with you in my head. My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired. And the clouds are weepingI see, I see lovers in the meadow. I see, I see silhouettes in the window. I watch them ’til they’re gone and they leave me hanging on … to a shadow.

mark monday

so there's this chick Lol Stein, a real blank broad, gets ditched by her cougar-lovin' fiance. bitch goes crazy, but the quiet kinda crazy, the kinda crazy you keep to yourself. girl gets married to some musician type. years later, she's a mother of three, living in her old town, and she gets wrapped up in her hottie best friend's life. the best friend is busy giving it up to this prick, a dapper don who works with her husband at the local hospital. Lol gets obsessed with the douchebag. some boring get-togethers happen. Lol spends some time watching the hotel room where the two are busy banging it out. mr douche spends some time wondering what is up with Lol. finally Lol and the ever-curious prick take a long-assed train trip to the place where Lol was first ditched years ago. they sit on the beach a while and talk some bullshit. finally, they bone. the there is an empty vessel. her name is Lol Stein. some say her mind became bent when she was betrayed by her lover; others say her mind was always a blank. Lol is a being who has let form define meaning; she has built her life around ideas such as what should a house and home look like? and how should a wife act, how should a scorned lover feel? Lol begins to be obsessed with her friend's affair... she wants to watch where the two lovers go, she wants to be a silent witness to their acts, she wants to find meaning in the forms of their passion. she wants their passion to fill her. in turn, her friend's lover becomes obsessed with her... he wants to understand what lies beneath that glassy surface, he wants to see his passion reflected upon it. is the nature of their different obsessions simply to be obsessed with the idea of an obsession? is that the nature of passion, of obsession... form eventually becoming meaning?so there is a french writer, Marguerite Duras. her novels are not written in the classic literary form; her works are a part of the Nouveau roman - they are anti-tradition. her novels reject such stand-bys as narrative, characterization, plot. her novels take the details of the world, the form of her characters' actions, and centralizes them so that these details, these descriptions of form, become the meaning itself. in her focus on these physical details, on the physicality of actions, she could possibly be considered a sensual writer. and yet this distance, this separation of incident from emotion, this focus on dividing intellectual contemplation from emotional reaction, makes her works an often clinical, alienating experience. ironically enough, her novel The Ravishing of Lol Stein is ostensibly about passion and voyeurism and the nature of love, the meaning of obsession, the traps and tricks of perspective and point of view. it is a passionless rendering of the various forms of there is a reviewer, mark monday, a shallow kind of guy, one with an automatic bias against the intellectualization of sensuality. he finds it distasteful, hollow, unreal. even worse, he finds it to be Not Hot. perhaps he is merely symptomatic of gender essentialism at its most prosaic - a man who responds to visual, sensory outputs like all men supposedly do - the kind of guy who wants visceral activity, sensual description, the kind of dude who is intimately familiar with the pornographic appeal of the extreme close-up detail. he wants it to be real. and so he rejects Duras' frosty attempt to deconstruct the nature of passion and obsession. it leaves him there is this guy, Mark M_____, he's rather an intellectual sort. he is a thinker. one of his favorite films is Hiroshima Mon Amour, written by Marguerite Duras. he admires the film's ability to position two living, breathing characters as - eventually - something both less and more than human... as archetypes for all lovers, for all individuals seeking meaning in escape, in passion, in the forms that meaning takes, within the at-times obliterating, all-encompassing physicality of each other's arms. he admires Duras' distance. he enjoys her lack of reliance on traditional narrative, plot, and characterization. in particular, he appreciates how, in books like The Ravishing of Lol Stein, the reader can literally pick any random page and, reading that page, understand the meaning of the entire work. each detail is symptomatic of the whole. he loves there was this bookish kid, Mark, who worked in the a/v department (of course) while going to school at ucsd. one evening he was in charge of a special screening of the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, for a class that he was in. unfortunately, Mark was high as a kite and got the reels mixed up... so the viewing audience saw the first part of the film first, the third part of the film second, the second part of the film last. there was not a single complaint from the audience. in class the next day, the students discussed the film - and there was no mention of a narrative breakdown, of a mix-up in reels. the purpose of the film remained clear for the students. each detail within the film distilled the meaning intended by the filmmakers. the narrative order was inconsequential. content did not drive form. characterization was unnecessary. plot was meaningless. meaning was present in each part of the film. each part was a whole. so there was this book, The Ravishing of Lol Stein. it dealt with passion and obsession, and the forms they take, and the meaning of those forms. it dealt with those subjects intellectually, objectively, without heat or emotion. it showed no interest in rendering its characters so that they could be understood empathetically. it left me cold. Duras began to seem rather heartless, rather cruel. but after some time, i began to recall Hiroshima Mon Amour, and what i loved about that film. i began to consider the novel again. i contemplated Duras' challenging themes. i started to admire the novel's distance, its alienation from its own topic. and so i grew to understand its frigid appeal, its sensual lack of earthy sensuality. well, what can i say: sometimes i dig a cold, smart bitch.


nope. i do not like marguerite duras. janet flanner, in the new yorker claims that her writing has a "shine like crystal." and that's probably true, if one is observing that it is as pointy and depthless as crystal, as chill and remote, as something that refracts emptily. ooooh duras BURN!!if this is a literary bodice ripper, i gotta say i prefer the crappy contemporary ones. this one isn't even intense with the taut tingling of repression, which also has its place and is something i can appreciate - it doesn't all have to be desperate passions and rending of garments, but this zombie vacuity does nothing for me - nothing nothing nothing. there is nothing at stake here, just people blinking emptily at each other, speaking words with no momentum behind them, frequently non sequiturs so it seems as though they are involved in separate conversations. lack of quotation marks so that when one character will reluctantly, languidly plop out a sentence, you sometimes don't even know which one is speaking, unless there is a back-and-forth, and then you can use context or whatever. but the one isolated word or phrase in a scene when two people are just sitting around existing, who knows who is speaking? who cares? and i am not just pouting because no one but me wanted to read zola for the literary smut portion of our rippings, i swear. i did not like The Lover when i read it, but i had hope nonetheless. this one sounded like it could be interesting. but the french have this habit of creating highly stylized works of art that leave me cold. why do they do that? very infuriating, frenchies...i know all the other rippers will have informed and intelligent things to say about this, and my frazzled and sweaty frustration will be coolly counteracted by more reasonable ladies (and a dude or two) with elegant and refined responses examining the psychology of characters such as these, and what duras is trying to accomplish be portraying them in this way, but i am a monster and i bust down the door and say "boring boring boring boring!!!"also, "boring!!"now i will go hide. ♥


Tale of a woman who loses her sanity when rejected. Duras tends to eroticise consciousness. But, the distinction of madness is love. "she had lived her early years as though she were waiting for something she might, but never did, become


Pretty good, I guess, but not quite as good as The Ravishing of ROTFLMAO Stein.


Not worth the read. I read it as part of the '1001 Books You Should Read in Your Life' group and finished this one having no idea why it was on the list. The writing was erratic and long winded without much really happening at all in the book. I can kind of see the whole idea of women's liberation in it when taking into account the fact that it was written in the 60's but not much was said, only vaguely implied. Lol's character was developed significantly but she is so strange and wishy washy with only the explanation of cancelled engagement. I found her reactions to everything very hard to believe. Tatiana didn't make a whole lot of sense either. She has some strange love affair going on with the narrator and is pretty certain there is something going on between Lol and him but she just chooses to largely ignore it, while Lol and Tatiana's husbands are suspicious but don't do anything about what they suspect to be their cheating wives. In what odd, cryptic parallel reality is this? I also didn't understand why the weakest and most vague of the characters was chosen to be the narrator. I choose to believe that part of the problem was in a faulty translation and since I don't speak French, I can't do much about that. However, I believe the problem had to be a lot more than the translation to come up with something this weak and ineffectual.


Beautifully written but not my cup of tea...too "modernist" ...resembles but does not reach, I think, some of the Woolf's best works, even resembling works like Mrs. Dalloway in theme and key scenes....I prefer Duras' more sustained pieces of fiction, the longer novels. However, it was worth reading after her reflections on writing in which she explains how she wrote the novel, and the importance of her writing place in process, which is reflected in the novel in terms of scenes within enclosures - hotels and ancient houses by the ocean (in Normandy, Northern France).


I was really impressed by the first few chapters of this book, but after that... well, the writing made it difficult to follow. I like books that make me think or even one where I have to stop for a bit to consider, but I found myself re-reading pages I'd just read going "now who said this??" And yet... at times I really liked the narrator's way of telling the story. I liked when he would point out that he was trying to construct parts he couldn't know for sure. Probably what I need to do now (or someday kind of soon) is re-read the book. Now that I've worked through it once and understood some of the rougher spots, maybe I'd get a lot more from it.


خانم مارگاریت عزیز؛دیشب کتاب شیدایی لل اشتاین تان را خواندم. با همه ی احترامی که برای رمان هاتان قایلم نمی توانم از این بگذرم که چندان چیزی از درونیات مردها نمی دانید. قبول دارم؛ ما مردها از شما پیچ و تاب کمتری داریم. اما دیگر نه آن قدر که سبک سرانه با شخصیت های مردتان برخورد کنید. نه این قدر که شخصیت مردتان توی روز روشن رفتارها و واکنش های بی ربط داشته باشد. کجای دنیا مرد از به هم خوردن آرایش صورت و موی زن این قدر دقیق حرف می زند. کجای دنیا مردها این قدر منفعل و بی خاصیت هستند که دوتاشان اصلا نباشند، یکی شان اصلا توی دور نباشد، آن یکی هم که هست بیشتر یک زن باشد تا مرد. حیف این داستان خوب و تغییر پیاپی و معرکه ی راوی ها نبود؟ نمی شد مردها را با همان ضعف های خودشان، که کم هم نیستند روایت می کردید؟ خاطرخواه نوشته هاتان هستم، خودتان هم می دانید؛ اما دیگر گند نزنید به خاطره ها.

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