Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

"You didn't have to attract desire. Either it was in the woman who aroused it or it didn't exist. Either it was there at first glance or else it had never been. It was instant knowledge of sexual relationship or it was nothing. That too I knew before I experienced it."

Where do I begin with this one? Equal parts beautiful and wretched, it has to be a must read! It depicts the tale of an unnamed fifteen year old protagonist  who escapes her traumatic home life through an affair with a much older man. This white, French girl in Saigon whose family is in dire financial straits finds short lived solace in the arms of a French educated Chinese man, causing significant upheaval due to their differences in age and race. As the girl is transported via black limousine from school to fancy restaurants and her lover's rooms, her dysfunctional family turn a blind eye while enjoying the largess provided by the Chinese lover.

The exploration of her familial relationships is fraught with torment and violence. The fragile mental state of the girl's mother, combined with the sadistic nature of her elder brother make for an untenable family situation which is difficult to read and yet expressed so succinctly it is almost poetic.

This edition was an amazing translation from the French. Having previously read Moderato Cantabile in French, what seems like eons ago for university, I'm surprised it has taken me this long to read this, her more famous ( and supposedly partially autobiographical) work.

The prose is a delight for all the senses. The most tragic, poignant scenes are rendered with an immediacy that is breathtaking. At a mere 117 pages, it is quite astonishing that so much feeling is housed within its compact confines.  5 out of 5 

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