Shaherzad ahmadi's Reviews > The Ravishing of Lol Stein

The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras
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Sep 06, 2011

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Read from September 05 to 06, 2011

I feel bad giving this book a 3/5. The prose is lyrical and very experimental; I recognize this as an excellent book in style. However, in terms of the story itself... I wish I could say it matched her prose; and I wish I could say that her prose was fully developed so that the reader could at least follow her train of thought. Her style reminds me in some ways of James Joyce's, but unfortunately she is less skilled in relaying this type of disjointed stream of consciousness. I had to read paragraphs multiple times because the ideas were so random and the conversations so inchoate. Also, the crux of the story, that Lol was jilted by her fiance for a married woman, wasn't that compelling. Ok, people get dumped and become extremely depressed as a result: how could this one event have affected her life so completely and people's opinion of her so dramatically?

Half the book (narrated by Jack, Tatiana and eventually Lol's lover) is about Lol's long walks, which she spends consumed by the scene of her fiance falling in love with this married woman, wondering what would have happened if things had gone differently. And, perhaps in her obsession with the past as a detached and in control observer (as one is when reflecting on the past), she begins to affect her old friend Tatiana's relationship with her lover Jack. She watches them make love from a hidden vantage and dictates to Jack what she wants from his relationship with Tatiana. Except this part is only partially explained as Jack is totally smitten with Lol and he just sort of muses about her mystery the whole book rather than elaborate on this interesting trio-dynamic more thoroughly. What compels him to follow her orders? Why doesn't he ask Lol why she is demanding so much of his affair with Tatiana? Does it in some ways alleviate the pain, and give her the power she lacked, from the last triangle she was part of?

Other interesting questions remain unanswered, or even casually ignored. Tatiana says that Lol's depression (after Lol's fiance abandoned her) was not a result of Lol's heartbreak but some other factor, a lack of heart as Tatiana puts it, something that had happened long ago to make her what she was: but this too, this enormous assertion on the part of Tatiana, is never discussed or even implied by Lol. What was wrong with Lol to begin with that made her susceptible to such insanity? Why did Tatiana feel Lol was never truly human? What is it that Lol is hiding? What did Lol mean that they were "wrong about the reasons"? We never know. These questions are skirted under the guise of Lol's perverse mystery. But honestly, it doesn't seem natural not to ask. Tatiana is the only character who demands answers; one would think the narrator, Jack, who purports to love her so intensely, would be curious to find these answers as well - but no, he is not, and thus the reader is never satisfied by the hints and implications that lead nowhere.

It doesn't really make that much sense and in the end you don't understand any character at all - except for maybe Tatiana, who seems like the only one resembling a human, described with more form and fluidity than the others.

Altogether, a weird book. I had read The Lover, and truly adored everything about it. This was kind of disappointing.
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Quotes Shaherzad Liked

Marguerite Duras
“That she had so completely recovered her sanity was a source of sadness to her. One should never be cured of one's passion.”
Marguerite Duras, The Ravishing of Lol Stein

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