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The Lover #1

The Lover

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Set against the backdrop of French colonial Vietnam, The Lover reveals the intimacies and intricacies of a clandestine romance between a pubescent girl from a financially strapped French family and an older, wealthy Chinese-Vietnamese man.

117 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1984

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About the author

Marguerite Duras

292 books2,382 followers
Marguerite Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on 4 April 1914, in Gia Định, Cochinchina, French Indochina (now Vietnam). Her parents, Marie (née Legrand, 1877-1956) and Henri Donnadieu (1872-1921), were teachers from France who likely had met at Gia Định High School. They had both had previous marriages. Marguerite had two older siblings: Pierre, the eldest, and Paul.

Henri Donnadieu fell ill, returned to France, and then died in 1921. Between 1922 and 1924, the surviving family lived in France while her mother was on administrative leave. They then moved back to French Indochina when she was posted to Phnom Penh followed by Vĩnh Long and Sa Đéc. The family struggled financially and her mother made a bad investment in an isolated property and area of rice farmland in Prey Nob,[2] a story which was fictionalized in Un Barrage contre le Pacifique.

In 1931, when she was 17, Duras and her family moved to France and she completed her baccalaureate. Duras returned to Saigon again with Paul and her mother in 1932 and completed her second baccalaureate, leaving Pierre in France. In 1933, Duras embarked alone for Paris to study law and mathematics. She soon abandoned this to concentrate on political science.[2] After completing her studies in 1938, she worked for the French government in the Ministry of the Colonies. In 1939, she married the writer Robert Antelme, whom she had met during her studies.

During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, Duras worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper quotas to publishers and in the process operated a de facto book-censorship system. She also became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party) and a member of the French Resistance as a part of a small group that also included François Mitterrand, who later became President of France and remained a lifelong friend of Duras.

In 1943, when publishing her first novel, she began to use the surname Duras, after the town that her father came from, Duras.

In 1950, her mother returned to France, wealthy from property investments and from the boarding school she had run.

She is the author of a great many novels, plays, films, interviews, and short narratives, including her best-selling, apparently autobiographical work L'Amant (1984), translated into English as The Lover. This text won the Goncourt prize in 1984. The story of her adolescence also appears in three other forms: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover, produced by Claude Berri, was released to great success in 1992.

Other major works include Moderato Cantabile, also made into a film of the same name, Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, and her film India Song. She also wrote the screenplay for the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.

Duras's early novels were fairly conventional in form (their 'romanticism' was criticised by fellow writer Raymond Queneau); however, with Moderato Cantabile she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the Nouveau roman French literary movement, although did not definitively belong to any group. Her films are also experimental in form, most eschewing synch sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story over images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less tangential.

Marguerite's adult life was somewhat difficult, despite her success as a writer, and she was known for her periods of alcoholism. She died in Paris, aged 82 from throat cancer and is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. Her tomb is marked simply 'MD'.

From wikipedia

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
January 21, 2019
***AWARDED THE 1984 PRIX GONCOURT***

“The story of my life doesn’t exist. Does not exist. There’s never any centre to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it’s not true, there was no one.”


 photo Marguerite_Duras_zpse0gigo7l.jpg
The young Marguerite Duras

She has pretty hair, copper hair that spools down her back in waves of alluring movement. People always comment on how beautiful her hair is which she interprets to mean that they don’t find her pretty.

She cuts her hair off.

She wears what is left in pigtails. She buys a man’s hat that is certainly eccentric for a young girl to wear in Saigon in 1929. She wants people to notice her eyes, her lips, certainly something other than her hair. She wants reassurance that her beauty is larger than one exquisite feature.

She is fifteen and a half. Her father is dead. Her mother is poor. Her older brother is a layabout, spoiled by her mother. Her other brother is nice, but no match for the rest of the family. She is lost in a world between adulthood and childhood, a dream world, and a world of harsh realities. Her mother insists that she study mathematics, but she wants to be a writer.

She has a friend at school. A lovely friend totally uninhibited and unaware of how beautiful she is. ”Hélène Logonelle’s body is heavy, innocent still, her skin’s as soft as that of certain fruits, you almost can’t grasp her, she’s almost illusory, it’s too much….I am worn out with desire for Hélène Logonelle. I am worn out with desire.

He has a limousine with a chauffeur. He is rich, or let me be more precise, his father is rich. He is Chinese. He is infatuated with her.

He trembles with fear born desire.

She wants them both. ”I’d like to give Hélène Lagonelle to the man who does that to me, so he may do it in turn to her. I want it to happen in my presence, I want her to do it as I wish, I want her to giver herself where I give myself. It’s via Hélène Logonelle’s body, through it, that the ultimate pleasure would pass from him to me.
A pleasure unto death.”


 photo TheLover_feat_zpso2kbsw39.jpg
Tony Leung Ka Fai and Jane March star in the 1992 French Film.

He is twenty-seven, but it is as if she were older. He is slender, insubstantial, built like a boy. A man trapped in a young mind. Arrested development. ”He often weeps because he can’t find the strength to love beyond fear. His heroism is me, his cravenness is his father’s money.” He is hindered instead of strengthened by his father. He is obsessed with her, with her nubile body, but knows his father will never let him keep her.

”She wasn’t sure that she hadn’t loved him with a love she hadn’t seen because it had lost itself in the affair like water in sand and she rediscovered it only now, through this moment of music flung across the sea.”

This book is based on the real life of Marguerite Donnadieu better known as Marguerite Duras. She was born in Saigon and did have a wealthy, much older, Chinese lover. At fifteen I think most of us believe we will love many people. We will have many exciting affairs of the heart. True love will be a field of flowers not a single stem already residing in the hand. At fifteen, even when we think we are in love, we can’t know whether it is real. Our basis of comparison is too slender, too new, too wrapped in hormonal need to really know what we feel is love.

 photo Marguerite20Duras_zpsbkjexs04.jpg
I love this picture of Marguerite Duras. The languid, weighted eyelids are a point of fascination.

She wrote this novel at the age of seventy. After fifty-five years I’m sure that Duras’s memories have been filtered through many lenses. The sepia tones of her time with her Chinese lover have deepened. The uncertainty is gone and she is left with clear, concise, brush strokes of a commemoration of lost love. This is a novel and from what I read there are deviations from her nonfiction accounts of her first affair, but this book reads of truth. The reader is left with a precise picture of a young woman who may have lost some of her innocence, but gains a self-confidence to break away from her meaningless life and swim for a new shore.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews167 followers
October 22, 2019
I opened the first page of Marguerite DurasThe Lover, and there she was, the girl with no name with all her ancient reminiscences. I heard her voice as if it were inside my head, Very early in my life it was too late. It was already too late when I was eighteen. How did you get there, my friend? Or should I call you my sister, since from the beginning I discovered we shared anguishes and most certainly a great multitude of passions and dreams?

We both were introduced to this world by tortured mothers, who experienced this deep despondency about living. Sometimes it lasted, sometimes it would vanish with the dark. But their desperation was thoroughly heartfelt, for what can a daughter do when facing a mother desperate with a despair so unalloyed that sometimes even life’s happiness, at its most poignant, couldn’t make them forget it. We daughters recognize them effortlessly as the awkward way she holds herself, the way she doesn’t smile. That image of our mothers certainly stayed with both of us for life, my friend. But what can we do, but go on living? I glance outside, and the wind is speeding like my heart is beating, faster and faster, bum, bum, bum, as I get to know you.

But suddenly my mind gets back inside. Yes, I was also there when you met the nameless man while crossing the river going back to Saigon with a storm blowing inside the water. I will never forget how you looked at our first meeting, my friend, wearing a dress of real silk, the famous pair of gold lame high heels and a man’s flat-brimmed hat, a brownish-pink fedora with a broad black ribbon. I have to agree with you, The crucial ambiguity of the image lies in the hat. You were only fifteen and a half, but wearing powder to camouflage the freckles and your mother’s lipstick. He was elegant, not a white man but wearing European clothes. Again I remember myself, walking hand in hand with a 26-year-old man when I was just sixteen. Our experiences seem to mimic each other, don’t you think? But while I had two fine sisters, you had two wild brothers that would never do anything.

Going back to your nameless young man, as you told me he got out of the limousine and is smoking an English cigarette. He looks at you in the man’s fedora and the gold shoes. He slowly comes over to you. He doesn’t smile to begin with. He’s obviously nervous. Was it so easy to get into this man’s car, dear friend? I don’t know if I would have had the courage or the temerity. That’s a clue that even though sisters, we are inherently different. And he presented himself, 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 met you. And you simply got into his car. The door shuts. A barely discernible distress suddenly seized you, weariness, the light over the river dims, but only slightly. Everywhere, too, there’s a very slight dearness, or fog.

Further memories of those times we shared during one of our meetings, comes running back to me. It is as if I was there with you, peeping into your afternoons. At first he looks at you as though he expects you to speak, but you don’t. He says he loves you madly, says it very softly. Then is silent. You don’t answer. You could say you don’t love him. You say nothing. But you did not stop at that, no, 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. He looked at you in horror, asked, Is that what you want? You said it is. He says he knows already you’ll never love him. Then you let him say it. You were a cool one, weren't you?

I look out the window, and now it’s raining like if it was going to drown us, hiding the sun shining at me. It's dark inside, for nothing could be harder than remembering those times. We who are now almost old ladies, at least well into our mature years. On top of my supposed wisdom, I wonder what is it so mysterious about being a woman. As a matter of fact, I often asked myself that before meeting my first lover at sixteen. Yes, I was some months older than you. Not that it would have made any difference if I could envision what and where that would lead me to. As you said some women just wait, they dress just for the sake of dressing. They look at themselves, dream of romance. long days of waiting. Some of them go mad. Some are ditched. You can hear the word hit them, hear the sound of the blow. Some kill themselves. But that was never us; please tell me so. But why could we expect to be different? Did you ever think you might have known, but forgot to tell me? Suddenly inspiration hits me, and I know how we saved ourselves despite our mothers. Do you still remember what you said, some time ago? I think you might have forgotten, let me remind you: it’s so simple, it was the writing that saved us! You told me how it all started,

I want to write. I’ve already told my mother. That’s what I want to do–write. No answer the first time. Then she asks, Write what? I say, Books, novels. She says grimly, when you’ve got your math degree you can write if you like, it won’t be anything to do with me then. She’s against it, it’s not worthy, it’s not real work, it’s nonsense. Later she said, A childish idea.

I answered that what I wanted more than anything else in the world was to write, nothing else but that, nothing. Jealous. She’s jealous. No answer, just a quick glance immediately averted, a slight shrug, unforgettable. I’ll be the first to leave.


I also write, although nobody knows, I am not famous after all. But it saved me nonetheless. But you tried to hide it from me. It’s ok; I forgive you, my friend. But I remember so well what you said once, I’ve never written, though I thought I wrote, never loved, though I thought I loved, never done anything but wait outside the closed door.

So many years have passed us by, leaving their ignoble scars; but we still reminisce all that went when we were almost children. Yes, you told me I can still see his face, and I do remember the name. The name you forgot to tell me. Indeed, it’s a place of distress, shipwrecked. And your mother, that went on living even after you left her. Let’s leave your brothers and my sisters for another talk, please. Or what you told me happened in Paris. Or my years in London and New York. Let’s leave the rest for another time, for I know with a certainty that goes deep into my bones, that we will meet again. Until then!
__

Notes
1. All quotes are in italics;
2. I took the liberty to change some pronouns to fit the flow of the writing in some quotes; so sometimes it will read 'you' where it was 'her.'
Profile Image for Samra Yusuf.
60 reviews396 followers
December 5, 2019
And the time comes, when we’ve to make peace with our past, to let go of moments we cherished dearly, or of those which brought torment endless, the love we lived or the one we denied emphatically, the people we admired foolishly and the ones we’d to abandon, things fall apart and what is left are the crumbled spikes we call memories. And time comes, when those fragmented pieces of the past are to be jotted down, the unspoken tale to be spoken after all, to let out the stories inside us, not to seek a sympathetic heart or to moan over our losses, we say our hearts just for the sake of saying, to breathe freely, to be at peace. Here is the tale told in most apathetic fashion, touching the innermost chords of the flesh in us which beats with the same rhythm as of the indifferent narrator, after all we’ve all been the lovers and we’ve loved “A love like this, so strong, it never happens again in a lifetime…never.”
There’s nothing new in the tale, if you’re looking for a love story you’re gravely mistaken. There’s no such love nor the story. The kind of love that starts with dewy glances and perturbs hearts, the kind of love with the happy ending of togetherness, or the kind of love that longs for the beloved in dark nights with juices flowing down the loins, marguerite pens down events from her childhood in most detached of voices, hers is not the lush style with poetic diction, there’s a marked dispassion in the tone and daunting flair in descriptions of her Indochina which is Vietnam today, and of her Chinese lover, a man of twenty-seven besotted by the skinny French girl of fifteen who hides her poverty-stricken face under a Manish hat, who wears clothes that were in fashion a dozen years ago, who has a body of a child and no flesh to attract men but a face of a half goddess and half prostitute, veiled behind his limousine glass, the lover falls for her in a fair morning in his way to cholon, he can never marry her ,he tells the child every time he makes love to her, this stripped naked reality saddens the most erotic of scenes too.
Like a father he tends to her needs, like a lover he worships her passionately, as for her, she’s found a haven in him, a home away from home, from those desperately poor people that are her family, the child loves his skin as he loves her untainted soul, they never promise nothing, they weave no future, as the lovers know, they have none. Sometimes we just want to lie next to someone and sleep, knowing our hearts are safe, the surety of sharing the same sky appeases much, as duras penned it down in her 70s, her heart must’ve been swelled with the thought of her lover, the faded face, the gone fragrance, the screaming silence, of her war-ravaged Saigon:

I see the war as like him, spreading everywhere, breaking in everywhere, stealing, imprisoning, always there, merged and mingled with everything, present in the body, in the mind, awake and asleep, all the time, a prey to the intoxicating passion of occupying that delightful territory, a child's body, the bodies of those less strong, of conquered peoples. Because evil is there, at the gates, against the skin.
He will always feel the same for her, he said..
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
January 24, 2022
(Book 252 from 1001 books) - L'Amant‬ = The Lover (The Lover #1), Marguerite Duras

The Lover is an autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, published in 1984. It has been translated to 43 languages and was awarded the 1984 Prix Goncourt. It was adapted to film in 1992 as The Lover.

Set against the backdrop of French colonial Vietnam, The Lover reveals the intimacies and intricacies of a clandestine romance between a pubescent girl from a financially strapped French family and an older, wealthy Chinese man. In 1929, a 15-year-old nameless girl is traveling by ferry across the Mekong Delta, returning from a holiday at her family home in the town of Sa Đéc, to her boarding school in Saigon.

She attracts the attention of a 27-year-old son of a Chinese business magnate, a young man of wealth and heir to a fortune. He strikes up a conversation with the girl; she accepts a ride back to town in his chauffeured limousine.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه آگوست سال1998میلادی

عنوان: عاشق؛ نویسنده: مارگاریت دوراس؛ مترجم: قاسم روبین؛ تهران، انتشارات نیلوفر، سال1376؛ در116ص؛ شابک9644480511؛ چاپ سوم سال1377؛ چاپ چهارم سال1378؛ چاپ پنجم سال1380؛ چاپ ششم سال1384؛ چاپ هفتم سال1388؛ چاپ هشتم سال1391؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسه - سده20م

عنوان: عاشق؛ نویسنده: مارگاریت دوراس؛ مترجم: کافیه جوانرویی، کرج، انتشارات مانگ، سال1393؛ در90ص؛ شابک9786009452019؛

یادیست یادگار، از اندوه و از سر بگذشته ها: فراز و فرود خواسته های یک زن، همان بانوی نگارنده؛ این کتاب به نوعی خود زندگی‌نامه ی «مارگریت دوراس» است، که در یک برش زمانی، از دوره‌ ی نوجوانی‌ خویش، به بازنمایی مکان، زمان، و آدم‌های دوروبری می‌پردازند؛ در مستعمره یا در همان کلنی «هندوچین»، یک مرد «چینی» پولدار، عاشق دختر پانزده ساله‌ ای می‌شود، که با کرجی در حین گذر از رودخانه است؛ راویها گاه دخترک، گاهی دانای کل، و زمانی پیرزنی است، که یادمانهای جوانی‌ خویش را، بازگو می‌کنند، و در حین روایتْ، خوانشگر را با شخصیت‌های دوروبرِ دخترک، و ویژگیهای اجتماعی، و روانشناسی آنان، آشنا می‌سازند؛

دخترک گاه عاشق خود را دوست میدارد؛ و گاهی از او بیزار است؛ همین حس پارادوکسیکال را، او نسبت به مادر خود هم دارد؛ اما در مورد برادرانش، تصمیم خود را گرفته؛ از برادر ارشد بیزار است، و برادر کوجک را دوست میدارد، و علت آن، مرگ زود هنگام برادر کوچک‌تر، و شباهت برادر بزرگ‌تر به خود هموست؛ در نهایت پدر معشوق، مانع ازدواج او، و پسرش می‌شود؛ و علی‌رغم میل پسر، زنی «چینی»، برایش اختیار می‌کند؛ اما آن‌چه موجب فروش جهانی موفق کتاب، تحت عنوان «رمان نو» شد، ماجرای آن نیست، بلکه عدم التزام «دوراس»، به رعایت کلیشه‌ های رایج رمان‌نویسی، یا خاطره‌ نگاری محض، و در نتیجه نگارش آزادانه، و بی‌قید و بند ایشانست

دیدگاه روان‌کاوانه، و تصویرپردازی «دوراس»، گرچه در جاهائی بی‌ ربط می‌نماید، اما حاکی از هوش نویسنده، برای جلب و انگیزش خوانشگر عام است؛ تا حدی که «عاشق»، به عنوان نمونه‌ ای از ادبیات روان‌شناسی، معرفی می‌شود. یادمانهای تراژیک نویسنده، که به صورت یک مجموعه، صیقل‌ شده، و آماده‌ ی ارائه است، باعث می‌شود که زمان روایت به صورت پاندولی، در حال رفت و بازگشت، در حال، و گذشته باشد. زبان سیال و عریان دوراس، به پختگی لازم رسیده؛ تا از عشق، لذت، بدنامی، گناه و تنفر، هرچند با ابهام و ایجاز، اما به سادگی سخن بگوید، و به درد زیستن، اعتراف کند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 24/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 03/11/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
December 28, 2018
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.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Dolors.
516 reviews2,139 followers
May 11, 2015
Who is “L’amant”(*)? The characters in this story are nameless. A puzzle of personal pronouns draws an anonymous canvas that perspires with alienation and the dense humidity of a foreign land, that mourns the loss of youth and innocence, that invokes the image of photographs never taken, the sound of words never uttered and the mirage of a future that never existed. Only the condensed ardour that clouds up the windows of a small hotel room, where two slippery bodies abandon themselves to contorting passion, defies reality and the passage of time.

But who is “The Lover”?
Is “The Lover” the fifteen-years-old tomboy standing in front to the ferry hiding her prematurely wrinkled face under the shadow of a man’s fedora hat?
She never expected to fall in love with him. She was only worn out with desire. And her dysfunctional family of European colonizers needed the money.
Is “The Lover” the wealthy Chinese man of twenty-seven years of age from Cholen who adores the girl from the distance, concealed behind the tainted windows of his father’s black limousine?
He undresses her with trembling fingers and weeps in the exile of his illegitimate love. He is ashamed of his weakness. She kisses his fragility and ruins the rest of his life.

At first I thought “The Lover” was she.
Then I realized it was he.
And finally I understood it was much more.

“The Lover” is a movable portrait of a first person narrator who is visiting a succession of her younger selves. Memories are her brushstrokes and life-consuming longing the color in which she paints her pictorial story. The awakening of first love and the discovery of erotic pleasure arrive hand in hand with the heartbreak of a certain separation, the sentence to life imprisonment by familial duty and the ruthlessness of intransigent tradition. The cultural distance between the local people and the colonizers in French Indochina become the backdrop of a love story that is condemned by history before it even started and the detached irony that drips from the narrator’s voice can’t disguise the desolation that is eating her alive underneath a carefully studied, impassive poise.

“The Lover” is a cascade of musical notes delivered in fluid movements, a whirlwind of words repeated like a mantra in breathless cadence and staccatto punctuation . “The Lover” is more than a semi autobiographical memoir and less than an interior monologue. It is the rawness of impressionistic paragraphs capturing in Polaroid snapshots the obsession of a crazed mother, the chauvinistic abuse of an elder brother and the alternating urgency and resigned languidness that leaves a permanent scar on the features of a young woman.

Yes. The tale has been told countless times before.
But never like this.
Never the vessel set sail in the Mekong River amidst deafening heat, chirping jungles and melting sky annihilatating all color.
Never the salty tears drowned the sob in torrents of silence and immobility while Chopin’s notes tinted the breath of the wind onboard.
Never the throbbing heartbreak was replaced by incandescent prose that palpitated to the rhythm of the distant voice of China.
Never the fate of two lovers who never spoke to each other, would be sealed with only two words.

(*) I read Marguerite Duras’ novella in Catalan translated from the French by Marta Pessarrodona.
Profile Image for Julie G .
857 reviews2,630 followers
January 29, 2021
I'm unclear on why this little novel was given the title The Lover.

Why the Lover?

This story has barely anything to do with him.

Who it is about: the young woman, the old woman, the girl who had the lover.

This distinction is important: the unnamed protagonist's age and status are perpetually changing and not in any particular order.

The story of my life doesn't exist. Does not exist. There's never any center to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it's not true, there was no one.

This is a story told in a stream-of-consciousness. . . completely non-linear, no distinguished dialogue, either.

And, a far more appropriate title for it would be: Surrounded by Sociopaths.

This would be a fantastic book for psychologists to read; it's a multi-generational account of a parent with a mental illness raising children who then suffer from untreated attachment disorders.

I'm no psychologist; I'm always in this reading and writing business for the characters and the stories, but I can't help but be fascinated by these people.

Never a hello, a good evening, a happy New Year. Never a thank you. Never any talk. Never any need to talk. Everything always silent, distant. It's a family of stone, petrified so deeply it's impenetrable. Every day we try to kill one another, to kill. Not only do we not talk to one another, we don't even look at one another.

This isn't the Partridge family, folks, and your family of origin will most likely look a lot better, in comparison.

Oh, and in case you're like me and you picked up this book hoping for some guilt-free, pandemic sex:

Hahahahahahahahahahaha. (I'm laughing at you and me).

Don't let the title and/or the bizarre three pages of a completely out of context, girl-on-girl fantasy segment mislead you.

Ain't nothing sexy about a girl suffering from attachment disorder who avoids her brother so he won't rape her staring up blankly at the ceiling while her “lover” must make love to fight against fear.

Ugh! Why must fictional sex be as complicated as real sex??

But (and this may surprise you, given some of my gripes), the writing was fascinating. Fascinating. I have post-it notes all over my copy. Marguerite Duras was a trendsetter and a poet. This is a bold work of “semi-autobiographical” fiction filled with inspired images and memorable lines.

In fact, the last line made me bite down so hard on my finger, hot tears spilled out of the corners of my eyes.

Ms. Duras wasn't just playing.
Profile Image for emma.
1,783 reviews42.8k followers
December 6, 2022
imagine if lolita was written by dolores and also it was autobiographical.

goodness gracious.

this is a very beautifully written and, as you'd expect, very disturbing book. at times it feels confusing and even surreal, which is ultimately an effective storytelling mechanism when you consider the content, even if and maybe because it makes it difficult to read.

bottom line: sheesh.

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currently-reading updates

reading this on the train in an attempt to be the most interesting girl on board
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,282 reviews2,150 followers
May 22, 2020
A world away from the intelligence insulting and glorified trash of E. L. James, Marguerite Duras has written a sparse, minimal and painfully sad erotic love story that never gets drawn into the realms of romantic fantasy.
And to deeply appreciate 'The Lover', it needs to be looked at from the perspective of Duras herself. Pen was put to paper when she was 70, it's predominantly all about looking back on memories past, and I say it's a painful read, painful in respects to nostalgia, as nostalgia forms the basis for the story that has origins from her actual youth while living in French Indochina, age fifteen she fell in love with a rich Chinese man. Duras takes this premise and places a white teenage girl in South Vietnam, into the arms of a wealthy older man who catches her eye while been driven in a limousine. But this is a forbidden love that was always doomed, trying to keep secret from her mother and two brothers she would regularly meet with her lover for moments of passionate bliss.

Duras stays away from any attention seeking sexual content, and never covers ground of what's right or wrong, just tells the simple tale of innocence lost. The narrative at times appears broken, and there is little in the way of dialogue, but his only helps to fortify the reading experience of it feeling like a distant dream.
After being Oscar nominated for her screenplay on the Alain Resnais film classic 'Hiroshima mon amour', Duras would rightly win Frances most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, and she will always remains a significant French writer.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,094 reviews3,835 followers
December 5, 2019
Very early in my life it was too late.
and
Death came before the end of his story. When he was still alive it had already happened.

The first, very striking quote, is on the opening page. Like the second quote, it teases about horrors not yet explained - that may never be.

Marguerite Duras wrote this autobiographical novella over a few months around her 70th birthday. The narrative is dreamy and disjointed. Her family is damaged and disjointed. She slips between first and third persons, tenses, and sheets. The main characters are nameless, and pronouns sometimes ambiguous.

I collected the shiny tesserae, gradually constructing patches of story. Some fit tightly, others less so, There’s an erotic diversion to describe the innocently irresistible body of a schoolmate, Hélène Lagonelle. You could almost read the snippets in any order (like JG Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, which I reviewed HERE).


Image: Scene on the ferry, from the 1992 film, which I’ve not seen (Source.)

The pages exude the heat and humidity of French Indochina (now Vietnam) in 1929. Soporific fever drives lust and hormones. Desperation changes standards. Taboos are breached.

The writing is beautiful, but there are constant allusions to fear, madness, and murder. A powerful dissonance.

The crux of the story is a relationship she had as a 15-year old with a 27-year old “man from Cholon” after an encounter on a ferry. She is white (French) but from an impoverished, dysfunctional, fatherless family. He is rich, but Chinese. Race, class, and wealth should keep them apart. And age.

I was captivated by the mysterious undercurrents of a broken family, and the lifelong ripples from a chance encounter on a mundane river crossing. A metaphor for the whole story. A child becomes an adult in an instant.

Red Flags

He breathes her in, the child…
It’s not like other bodies, it’s not finished…
It launches itself wholly into pleasure as if it were grown up…
I became his child.


It seems unfair to compare this very personal piece to Lolita (see my review HERE), but I think one must. Although Duras' story takes place long before Nabokov's, she wrote it long after, and must have known of it. Like Lolita, the strange beauty of Duras' language lures one into a distasteful story of an abused child.

This teenager is also a vulnerable, immature, tomboy - albeit not as knowing as Lolita is portrayed. But we only see Lolita through Humbert’s deluded self-justifying eyes, whereas in The Lover, the author is describing herself, making peace with her past.

The more shocking aspect here, is that her mother and older brothers are fully aware of what’s going on. They permit, enable, and defend it.

How can innocence be disgraced?
So asks her mother, when her daughter’s relationship is challenged.

Everyone (the girl, the man from Cholon, her family) acknowledges that she doesn’t - and won’t ever - love him, though he claims to love her. Her family enjoy lavish meals and financial benefits, though won’t even talk to the man himself. This is child prostitution!


Image: Woman waving a red flag (Source.)

In 18 months, they don’t talk about themselves, let alone their future. She likes the idea of his having other women, which raises questions about her own self-esteem.

The man is a victim of sorts, ruled by fear, especially of his father, and looked down on by colonials because of his skin. But he is an adult, wanting to avoid, or at least delay, a suitable marriage, so that he can prolong “Love... in its first violence”!

Ambiguous Morality

Duras’ interpretation of the relationship is cloudy and contradictory:

• When writing of her most vulnerable times, she sometimes switches to third person, as if distancing her adult self from her younger self.

• She makes the point that the inequality of age and wealth were counterbalanced by inequality of race.

• She writes (with hindsight) that she immediately realised her power over him, and that the choice was hers alone.

• But she also writes that she’s “where she has to be, placed here”, which sounds like less of a choice.

• Most unsettlingly, of losing her virginity to this man, she says - in the third person:
She doesn’t feel anything in particular, no hate, no repugnance either, so probably it’s already desire.

Ambiguous Truth

The story of my life does not exist.

Duras provokes the reader on this point. Photos are a small, recurring, and significant trope. In particular, she muses on a non-existent one: a photo of herself, aged 15 “that might have been taken”, but wasn’t. In it, her clothes were chosen for “crucial ambiguity”. The reader wonders what would (not) have happened if she’d caught a different ferry that day. If perhaps she actually did?

However, long before she wrote this, Duras wrote another, semi-autobiographical novel, The Sea Wall, in 1950. It presents a similar picture, but notably different in other ways. See Jim's excellent review here.

It would be easier to think this story is fiction, but evidently the general narrative is true. Tragedy.

Quotes

• “The light of the sun blurred and annihilated all colour” and at night “the light fell from the sky in cataracts of pure transparency, in torrents of silence and immobility.”

• “It’s not that you have to achieve anything, it’s that you have to get away from where you are.”

• “When I was a child my mother’s unhappiness took the place of dreams.”

• “Their disgrace is a matter of course. Both are doomed to discredit because of the kind of body they have, caressed by lovers, kissed by their lips, consigned to the infamy of a pleasure unto death… the mysterious death of lovers without love.”

Conclusion

This is a brilliant piece of writing, but not at all what I expected. There are far more mentions of fear, madness, and death than of love or even passion.

It is more disturbing - or should be - than expected. I have friends, and have read of others, who’ve had under-age age-gap relationships like this and sworn they were positive milestones. One couple are still together after 35+ years. What sets this apart for me, is the family’s acceptance of the financial aspect.

The writing is 5*, the subject is awful. Averaging to 3*.

Given the very fragmentary, non-chronological telling, and the fact it’s barely 100 pages, it’s best read in one or two sittings.
Profile Image for Michael.
657 reviews968 followers
December 6, 2018
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

An autobiographical story about an affair between a young French girl and a Chinese man, set near Saigon, The Lover wavers between repression and indulgence. The tone is detached, the description spare, the narrative fragmented; in spite of the the cool aloofness of Duras's prose, though, the novel is incredibly sensual. Each image glints and radiates a warmth much at odds with the narrator's emotional reticence. The unnamed French girl's tendency to return to describing a few central images from her past, capturing them from different angles, lends the photographic text a cyclical and erotic quality. In the end, though, the story is rather disturbing: the girl is exploited by her lover, and her family regularly abuses her. The Lover is more of a harrowing survival narrative than a romance, and Duras's story of her adolescence is well worth reading.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
850 reviews2,087 followers
February 18, 2013
Desire

The 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.


 photo IMAG1670_zps4845f1d3.jpg

Mural at the Pawpaw Cafe attached to the Brisbane Restaurant "Green Papaya"
Profile Image for Robin.
473 reviews2,490 followers
June 27, 2017
This is a thin novella, but do not expect an easy read. Though translated from the original French, you will experience an almost immediate halt, like you are reading something in a different language. And you are. It is the language of dreams. It is also the language of recollection. It does not flow in a typical fashion: it dips you in a moment then pulls you out just as you are getting used to the temperature of the water. It plunges you into another time and place, emoting a feeling out of context and once again as you are getting your bearings, the scene changes again.

Marguerite Duras wrote this as an older woman, and it's clear that this is heavily autobiographical. These are remembrances of herself at 15 and a half years young, and her erotic love affair with a 27 year old wealthy Chinese man. Again, the reader halts. 15? 27? Ick? A different time? Can we peer in on their affair without feeling uncomfortable? I'm not altogether sure. Yes, she's mature beyond her years. Yes, she seems to be the one in charge. For me though, it treads the razor's edge of true-life Lolita, with his uncontrollable love for this girl, with his tearful, sexual obsession.

There's a blurry child prostitute image I keep seeing, a child with gold lamé heels and a pinkish brown fedora. A girl being dropped off at school in her lover's limousine. An unphotographed, lonely and serious girl, whose family life has sucked the childhood out of her. Her father has died, her mother is mentally ill and is barely keeping the family afloat in manageable poverty, her older brother beats her. She looks back at this time with her Chinese lover as the pivotal time in her life. She tells him she will never love him. She tells him she is with him because of his money.

She believes it, when she says it. She takes the money. Her family devours the meals he pays for, wordlessly. She is unprepared for the shifting clouds, the imperceptible variations of the heart, carried on the notes of a Chopin waltz, that there was love, that love "was lost in the affair like water in sand". This love defines her, even into old age.

A poetic, powerful, dreamy glance back at a love affair, painful in its secrecy, in its illicitness, in its doomed fate.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for ميقات الراجحي.
Author 6 books1,947 followers
February 14, 2018
Prix Goncourt : 1984 . Who read novels likeأ : Les Misérables, Camille : The Lady of the Camellias, The Outsider and The Little Prince.
الأعمال السابقة وغيرها من قائمة الأعمال الفرنسية العظيمة – التي أحببتها شخصيًا – أقول له اليوم أضم هذه التحفة الصغيرة لـ"عبقريته الفنيةا" للأعمال الفرنسية التي أعجبتني في فترات سابقة من حياتي القرائية.



، هي نوفيلا في (126) وقد كتبت بضمير متكلم والكثير من المونولوج الداخلي لكن تقنية إستحضار الفلاش باك - ذكري الماضي - وتوظيفه في الحاضر ثم وبطريقة جنونية تجعلع خبرًا إستباقيًا للمستقبل كان عملًا إحترافيًا. أن تخرج دوراس كل ما جعبتها - سيرتها ٠ في قالب رواية عميقة وقوية رغم صغر حجمها. لا تعدو كونها نوفيلا - رواية في أول الأمر وأخره - تُعري ذاتها وأسرتها وتقسو على نفسها وأمها وأخيها الأكبر بكل هذا الوجع. أن تنقل كل أحداث طفولتها ومراهقتها وصولًآ لمرحلة الشباب والنضح لما بعد الكهولة وقد تجاوزت سن السبعين تنقله بتقنيه روائية عالية تشعرك أن كل خبرات الكتابة أذابتها ووضعتها في قالب روائي عميق يتطلب منك جهدًا لابأس من التركيز

بإشارات طفيفة عن (سايغون : المستعمرة الفرنسية) في فيتنام (هو تشي منه : اليوم) نقلت العمق التاريخي الفيتنامي والصيني والفرنسي حول هذه المنطقة وتلك الفترة التريخية. أقول في إشارات طفيفة لكنها قادرة على خلق فجوة زمنية تجبرك على ردمها بأقرب معلومة حتى تعي طبيغة المستوطنون الفرنسيون فـي مجتمعات المستعمرة للسكّان الأصليين.

إنها قصة عاشقة فرنسية مراهقة. عشقت بطريقتها الخاصة وكتبت سيرة عاشق صيني كان كلاهما يعلم حقيقة مشاعر الآخر وكيف أن البحث عن المتعة يتجاوز حدود المتعة حد الرغبة في الهرب من شيء ما لا تبديه الصورة
ــــــــــــــــــــــــــ
رابط لتغريدات حول رواية العاشق حيث حسابي

https://twitter.com/MeqatA/status/947...
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 28 books13.4k followers
December 12, 2009
L'Amant looks simple on the surface. Marguerite Duras, about 70 when she wrote it, tells you about her first affair, with a rich Chinese man. She was a fifteen year old girl in colonial-era Vietnam, he was a dozen years older. Her family was desperately poor. Her mentally ill mother tacitly condoned the relationship; Marguerite's lover was generous, and they needed the money. Then she screamed at her daughter and beat her. The language is plain, unadorned and impersonal, stripped to its bare essentials. Sometimes I almost felt I was reading a math text. The author is not trying to tell you a love story or complain about how fate, her lover or her family mistreated her. She just wants to write down what happened and make peace with it. The result is a beautiful and deeply affecting book.

I wish I could write something like this. I thought back to things that had happened to me when I was a teenager and I tried to write about them the way Duras did, and I couldn't do it. I can't detach enough. I can't be sufficiently objective. I can't stop myself from judging or interpreting.

Here's a fragment, one piece I can see clearly. I hadn't seen my lover for some weeks; she had been sent overseas by her parents. Maybe it was because they disapproved of our relationship. I went to visit her. She came to meet me at the station. We went to a cheap hotel. We took our clothes off and got into bed. I held her, and she told me she had been unfaithful. There was a boy who was so stricken with her; she'd been unable to refuse him. I said it didn't matter. Then she said that there was a second man, older, a martial arts instructor. She was sleeping with him regularly. She said it was different from other relationships she'd had; the sex was different. I asked how. Sometimes, she said, he just entered her, no foreplay, nothing, and that was somehow special. I said it was good to hold her. I could feel her body telling me that she still loved me. She said that she wasn't telling me anything. We pulled apart and got dressed, and we never slept together again.

Some day, I might be able to tell the whole story and explain how it wasn't her fault, or mine. It just came out that way.

Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews788 followers
July 1, 2011
Dearest Marguerite,

I know it is awfully late now, to write to you. I could not resist though. I thought about you the other day; as her eyes scanned the Chinese gentleman for the first time, on the ferry to Mekong. The demure young features veiled under a mannish hat, gave away precocious impression of a 15 year old girl as he offered her a cigarette. The statuesque Chinaman who exuded charm and eloquence was besotted by her as she was by him. He was to be her lover; an escape from the abhorrent and impoverished life. On the brink of her sexual exploration, she yearned for the pleasure of his touch, his embrace; a world that was beyond the imagination of a young school girl. As she pressed her red-stained lips on the cold glass of his car, he knew he could never marry her, a fact that he told her several times, but would always love her, for “A love like this, so strong, it never happens again in a lifetime…never.”

As the movie played on my screen, I searched for your book and there it lay among the dusty pile of old books, a slight tattered at the cover page. An affair of a pubescent girl with a 27-year old affluent Chinese man brings variation in one’s perception. Over the years, the book was disparaged for its pedophilic nature and the overtly sexual display of a young girl romanticizing to the term 'prostitutes'. The girl’s impecunious and abusive family history, they said was a convenient backdrop to pen a fragile child pornographic literary piece. From the time I read the book as an 12 year old, when I accidentally “borrowed” the book from my cousin’s library stock to those several occasions, I comprehended the writings as an adult, all I observed was a power struggle of an adolescent who naively used her sexuality to find a sense of belonging and in some way gain control over her existence. The story is far more complicated than just the exterior of a love affair. It delineates a distorted notion of true love (if the term is applicable here), the hypocrisy of social mores and the chaos derived from infidelity and wealth.

I have cherished the book for decades now, and words fail me in expressing my heartwarming thankfulness for bursting my initial deluded bubble of an idyllic Nancy Drew utopia, exposing the discrepancies of a flawed society and sullied emotions. Life unexpectedly became a rational place to live in.

R.I. P. – Ms. Duras.


From,
The 7th grader, who once scribbled ‘orgasm’ for the very first time in her history textbook and became wiser.
















Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,466 followers
September 3, 2014
Something dark and deeply unsettling simmers angrily beneath the surface of this narrative. This 'something' becomes so potent a force, arousing fear and feelings of disgust in the reader, that one is often tempted to abandon reading and save oneself from all the unpleasantness Duras shoves right in the reader's face without inhibitions.

'The Lover' is a brutally honest attempt at reconciliation with the past, irrespective of how much hurt and damage it may have caused. It is a tale of Marguerite Duras' childhood years spent in what is modern day Vietnam and reads almost like a memoir or piece of non-fiction at times.

The narrator of The Lover is sometimes a young girl of 15, sometimes a woman, sometimes a mere child, sometimes an old lady living in France as an established novelist and sometimes a girl caught in a painful identity crisis. Duras' erratic narration and tendency to flip back and forth between the past and present and her personal contemplations (slightly in a Slaughterhouse-Fiveish way) ensure that the reader occasionally loses the thread connecting all the events. But even so the story resonates strongly with the one reading and and one can barely prevent a disturbing image of human suffering from being burned into their mind.

The unnamed narrator's voice is strangely full of apathy and indifference. It almost lacks a clear character. There are times when the resentment in this young girl reaches a fever pitch and thrashes about restlessly for an outlet into the realm of reality. But in the very next moment, it reduces in intensity and assumes its former state of equanimity. It is as if she is torn between feelings of revulsion and longing and cannot pick one over the other. Her existence itself seems precariously balanced on the predominant emotions of hatred and love that she feels for the people closest to her.

She begins a turbulent love affair with a much older, rich Chinese man and this, in turn, becomes both a boon and a bane for her. He becomes her safe haven from the cruelties of life and the emotional and physical abuse she silently suffers at the hands of her own family members. But then, he also becomes the cause of her social stigma and shame - thus he is her tormentor and her savior at the same time.

I see the war as like him, spreading everywhere, breaking in everywhere, stealing, imprisoning, always there, merged and mingled with everything, present in the body, in the mind, awake and asleep, all the time, a prey to the intoxicating passion of occupying that delightful territory, a child's body, the bodies of those less strong, of conquered peoples. Because evil is there, at the gates, against the skin.


Initially it is hinted that the young girl is cold and indifferent towards her lover and possibly does not reciprocate his feelings. But at the end of the affair, she comes to the realization that her love for him may have been genuine after all.

A perpetual state of chaos seems to prevail inside the adolescent protagonist's head and this almost becomes an accurate reflection of the tumultuous times of a colonized, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Indo-China (present Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) - a war-ravaged land whose fortunes remained at the mercy of various colonial masters for decades.

Even though a doomed romance forms the main subject matter of this book, what often overshadows its acutely depressing tones, is the looming presence of Indo-China. Duras' love for this land shines through the haze of her traumatic years.
Because interspersed between the disturbing imagery, there are beautiful descriptions of Cholon, the Chinese capital of French Indo-China, bustling with life and activity, the river Mekong and the morning ferry carrying its passengers across to Saigon, where the young girl goes to boarding school.

Thus it is heartening to see that Vietnam is not reduced to the status of a mere backdrop in a tale of personal miseries but comes alive in its state of silent agony, in Duras' sparse but beautiful prose. Its sights and sounds and smells and landscapes become an integral part of this semi autobiographical novella and add a distinct character to it.

"The bed is separated from the city by those slatted shutters, that cotton blind. There's nothing solid separating us from other people. They don't know of our existence. We glimpse something of theirs, the sum of their voices, of their movements, like the intermittent hoot of a siren, mournful, dim.
Whiffs of burnt sugar drift into the room, smell of roasted peanuts, Chinese soups, roast meat, herbs, jasmine, dust, incense, charcoal fires, they carry fire about in baskets here, it's sold in the street, the smell of the city is the smell of the villages upcountry, of the forest."


The Lover does not make my list of all-time-favorites and nor may it merit a re-reading. But even then it rightly deserves the 4 stars I awarded it, simply because it succeeds in painting a moving picture of ambivalent relationships, that transcends the boundaries of race or ethnicity and appeals to the universal human spirit.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,791 reviews429 followers
December 2, 2022
A charming little novel to read! We peacefully revisit the old memories of the author, in particular, the memories of her first love and her somewhat problematic relationship with her mother and big brother. The author remembers the troubles of her adolescence, the discovery of her body, of sexuality, and her relationship with an older adult when she was only 15 years old. Not only the age separates them but also the culture because it is Chinese. At the age of 15, Marguerite wants to chart a course for her life to get away from her family. She cannot take it anymore of this life led by a mother overwhelmed by her responsibilities as head of the family, an absent father, and a dishonest brother. The latter uses the excessive love of the mother to commit reprehensible acts. At the age of 15, Marguerite is almost a woman.
Read in one go. The lover is an atypical book that I liked!
Profile Image for Vessey.
30 reviews266 followers
August 15, 2017
Desire. Is it pleasure or pain? Can and should we try to control it? To trust it? To understand it? Do we shape our desires or do they shape us? What part of us is desire? Is it the purest and deepest aspect of human nature? Where does it come from? Can a desire on its own be vile or virtuous or only actions are bound to be judged? How much do we know about our desires and where do they lead us? What brings two people together? What brings together a French girl and Chinese man twelve years older than her? Set in the 1930s in Indochina, this is a tale about two people trying to break their bonds, but unable to do so. They are kindred spirits in more ways than one. They are both oppressed by their families, they are both unable to understand their feelings. They lose themselves in passion that is born from more than romance. It is a passion for change, for freedom. But can there be truly freedom in desire? Is desire bound to enslave us or free us? Buddhists believe that desire is the reason for all human suffering and only liberation of desire may lead to ultimate happiness. But along with pain can we also find pleasure in unfulfilled desires? Is all longing pain and dissatisfaction? Can it be an inspiration, a fuel? Don’t those of us focusing only on present pleasures close the doors for achieving greater ones? Should we give up the possibility for more in order to fully enjoy what we have now or should we sacrifice some of that bliss for the hope of a bigger one? Longing brings pain and emptiness with itself, but it also makes the good part even better. Which is better? An ordinary, calm, perfect happiness or happiness stained by the pain which comes with longing, but also enriched by the intensity and passion that come along with it? The former sounds better if we accept that happiness is just a lack of pain. But Is it just that? In “Notes from the Underground” it is explored the idea of finding pleasure in pain. People don’t just desire what they cannot have. They also desire what ultimately can never bring them happiness. Often the greatest joys and sorrows are consequences of each other. This is a story of doomed lovers, who love each other with all the intensity and passion of people who know they are about to lose each other. "He didn’t speak of the pain, never said a word about it. Sometimes his face would quiver, he’d close his eyes and clench his teeth. But he never said anything about the images he saw behind his closed eyes. It was as if he loved the pain, loved it as he’d loved me, intensely, unto death perhaps, and as if he preferred it now to me.". Do we treasure the most that which we are bound to lose? Do we sometimes risk to lose it in order to feel it more intensely? If we always want more, does that make us adventurers, masochists, seekers of wisdom…or maybe just people? Desire can built us or ruin us. Sometimes is does both. If desire is pleasure and pain equally, how do we cope? How do the protagonists do it? She admits her feelings only in the end, when she has already lost him. Maybe because she was afraid that loving him would make the loss all the more painful? But it would have made the anterior pleasure all the greater and wouldn’t those precious moments, her getting everything she can out of them, eventually be a consolation as well? Maybe this is why he loves pain. It is pain born out of feeling which he savours at its wholesome. Do we dare to be adventurous and desire or are we determined to treasure that which we already have? Dreams of the future can both enrich and rob us of our present. It is all about balance. We should always look with hope for the future and dream, but not in a way that makes us forget the value of that which we have now. We should always remember the value of what we already have, but we should also always remember to dream. Hadn’t great artists and adventurers dreamed and desired, we wouldn’t have had everything we have today. Worlds are built on dreams and desires.

Read count: 1
October 23, 2019
Γαλλική Ινδοκίνα της δεκαετίας του 1930, με φόντο την μνημειώδη
αυτόπεριφρόνηση του ηδονικού έρωτα,
τη μάσκα επαναστατικής δράσης ενάντια στην προκατάληψη για την έγχρωμη αγάπη,
την οικεία αφηγηματική φύση της πρωταγωνίστριας, αυτή, που χαρακτηρίζεται απο την προκλητική
και άνετη περηφάνεια της κατάντιας της
και την απενοχοποιημένη συναισθηματική νοημοσύνη των ηρώων.
Όλα προγραμματισμένα με έναν σκανδαλώδη, χειριστικό τρόπο προς τον αναγνώστη,
σε αυτόν, που η ιστορία καταφέρνει
να τον περάσει αμέσως στους βαθύτερους μονολόγους.

Αυτούς,που τα βράδια προσπαθούν να σκοτώσουν
τις αισθήσεις έντασης και παρέκκλισης,
απο τα μυστικά που κρατάει η ψυχή απο την καρδιά,
ενώ η ζωή της νύχτας των διαλόγων,
ανάμεσα σε λαχανιασμένες αναπνοές και λυγμούς πάθους,
χτυπάει με ένα θυσιασμένο θράσος τις πόρτες της συνείδησης και ζητάει,
υπέροχα σφάλματα,
για να μην πεθάνει απο την πείνα των ηθών και των παραδόσεων.
Κάτι τέτοιες έννοιες πωλούνται πανάκριβα
στα παζάρια των απολιθωμένων αποικιοκρατιών και όποιος δεν καταφέρει να χαρίσει
και να δεχτεί κραυγές ανείπωτης ευδαιμονίας,
ζωντανές και άγριες ,
πεθαίνει απο σπασμένη καρδιά
στο απαρτχάιντ των αρθρωτών υποβιβασμών και την αόριστη έκλειψη του «εραστή»που πάντα θα καταδικάζεται.
Πάντα θα απαγορεύεται να αγαπήσει πέρα απο τον φόβο, πέρα απο την κυριαρχία της αρνητικότητας
και δεν θα φοβάται να πεθάνει,
αφού και ως ζωντανός βίωνε την καθημερινότητα
του κενού, του άδειου πυρήνα της ψυχής
που έχει ήδη πετάξει μακριά, διότι δεν άντεξε το χάος της επιβολής των οικογενειακών σχεδίων για τα εγκλήματα που καθόριζαν άπειρες ανεραστες γενιές.

Πόσο υπέροχο, βαθιά σιωπηρό μέσα στο συναισθηματικό αντίλαλο και πολυπλοκότατο στυλ γραφής.
για μια διττή ιστορία πάθους και μια παράδοξη αμηχανία φιλοσοφίας ανάμεσα στο ακατέργαστο μίσος,
τη ζωή και τον θάνατο.
Είναι ένα ερωτικό αριστούργημα διαπολιτισμικού ρομαντισμού μέσα σε γκρίζες κοινωνίες
και ανάμεσα σε οικογένειες πέτρινες, απολιθωμένες, σιωπηλές απο την μανία της κατάθλιψης και την αδιαπέραστη ανάγκη του εσωτερικού μονολόγου,
αυτού, που μας αποκαλύπτει πως η σιωπή χρησιμοποιείται απο την οικογένεια
της ηρωίδας-αφηγήτριας ως όπλο για να σκοτώσει ο ένας τον άλλον.

Βαθιά αδιαπέραστη η δύναμη της καταχρηστικής συγγένειας, δέχεται και αφορίζει την απαγορευμένη αγάπη ανάμεσα στην δική τους
15χρονη Γαλλίδα και τον νεαρό Κινέζο εραστή,
γόνο ενός εκατομμυριούχου,
άθραυστου και απαρέγκλιτα συμμορφωμένου στις υποδείξεις της εθνικής του παράδοσης.

Η Duras με αξιοθαύμαστη μαεστρία καταφέρνει μέσα απο τα μακρινά, πέτρινα, απολιθωμένα και αδιαπέραστα κομμάτια της ιστορίας να εφαρμόσει την σιωπή ως τρόπο έκφρασης του συναισθήματος.

Την αγάπησα. Γι αυτό και μόνο.

✨✨✨✨✨✨

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,216 reviews512 followers
January 27, 2019
Now I know why several friends have mentioned that this book has special meaning for them. I've never had a reading experience quite like this. A woman writing from her older years about her teenage experiences in Viet Nam with her Chinese lover, but also with her family. And also of her experience of Viet Nam itself--the natural world, the skies and trees and people, and customs both strange and familiar.

The book is an experiential wonder, slipping between past and present, the concrete observations of the moment and whimsical, beautiful thoughts of the natural world and the history of mankind. I loved so many of these interludes and cited many in my status updates.

And there is her much older lover, a man some 12 years older than this 15 year old girl who manifestly shouts to the world how strongly she does not love him. But what the truth was/is for her only to know:

For her too it was when the boat uttered its first
farewell, when the gangway was hauled up and the tugs
had started to tow and draw the boat away from land,
that she had wept. She'd wept without letting anyone
see her tears, because he was Chinese and one oughtn't
to weep for that kind of lover. Wept without letting her
mother or her younger brother see she was sad, without
letting them see anything, as was the custom between
them.
(p 111)

Was she crying for lost love, for her lost youth, for lost memories. We won't know. But there is despair as she leaves for France.

I feel that I have now truly read an actual soulful book. Duras' soul seems to permeate the entire piece in all its contradictions of emotions and feelings, observations of life and family, loves and hates and fears and hopes. For me the sometimes disconnected style was perfect for presenting and reflecting all of this.

Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Linda Wells.
Author 3 books348 followers
April 22, 2022
Marguerite Duras has written the remarkable story of her childhood love affair with a wealthy older man who happened to be Chinese. Their tumultuous love affair took place in pre-war Saigon in 1929. The book is written with exquisite language expressing perfectly the powerful emotions of an innocent girl as she experiences first love with an exotic and loving older man.

The young French girl faces disgrace on many levels. She is no longer respected because of the illicit affair; the fact that she is white and he is Chinese is unacceptable in 1929 Vietnamese society. Her lover is betrothed to a Chinese woman he’s yet to meet. He is torn between the love he feels for the young French girl and family obligation. But he has no choice. He will lose his inheritance and shame his family if he does not follow through with the arranged marriage.

Their love affair is beautifully drawn, loving, tender, and erotic. The dialogue is stunning, a memorable and heart rending novel. The sad life of the young French girl is well described, which probably explains her desire and need for love and escape from her desolate world. The ending will stay with you.

“…she wept because she thought of the man from Cholon and suddenly she wasn’t sure she hadn’t loved him with a love she hadn’t seen because it had lost itself in the affair like water in sand and she rediscovered it only now, through this moment of music flung across the sea.”

WINNER OF FRANCE'S PRIX GONCOURT
Profile Image for Ben Loory.
Author 24 books672 followers
April 10, 2012
fragmented, drab, and full of unpleasant people. had a nice part about a hat though.
Profile Image for Amina.
338 reviews88 followers
January 13, 2023
I just finished this book. Gorgeous prose, dark content, heartbreaking story. I wonder, how do I rate a book about a 15 and a half year old girl and a 27 year old man? The cringy part of me wants to give a one star, but then I thought about it…

This is the story of Marguerite Duras, almost entirely autobiographical. This is her experience. As much as I feel uncomfortable, it's her story, her experience. It's not a fictional romanticized story of pedophile. It's a real and true experience.

Suddenly I see myself as another, as another would be seen, outside myself, available to all, available to all eyes, in circulation for cities, journeys, desire.

The story is told in a complicating way, which made me wonder how the translation from French to English interfered. The young girl (only referred to as 'I' or 15 1/2) is at boarding school when a black shiny car, with a wealthy Chinese man arrives. She's dressed in gold heeled shoes, a fedora, and a dress, dark lipstick. She gets into the car with him and the rest is, not always in detail, an illicit relationship between the two.

This little girl has a childhood void of any emotion. Her abusive older brother is a tyrant, her mother a statue, and her younger brother (the only one she has affection for) too young to understand the ramifications of life.

In this affair, the girl takes money from the man, giving it to her family--who heedlessly devour it. She tells the man she will never love him, but the tides shift, the tenderness with which she's treated has an impenetrable affect on her. A fathers love, never known.

The relationship, doomed from the beginning--age, class, race all swirling above them. In truth, I feel like, while the relationship is wrong--they both seem to connect with suffering. The man, confined to race and wealth, not able to freely love, in a world that judges ever move. The girl, broken and damaged from a family void of emotion. Her older brother, is a monster. The way he hurts, hunts, and damages the family was more sickening than the affair.

While researching 'The Lover,' I learned that Duras wrote it when she was 70 years old. A look back into a time most have forgotten. For many, 15 feels like 14, and 14 feels like 15. The numbers blur together in our teens, but for Duras, it was the most memorable moment, possibly, her entire life.

The story of my life doesn’t exist. Does not exist. There’s never any center to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it’s not true, there was no one.


This isn't a retelling of an illicit affair, its darker, much darker. It's the story of a young girl, coming of age, abandoned to her own devices, navigating a foreign world, without an ounce of support from her family. THAT, is a lot.

Never a hello, a good evening, a happy New Year. Never a thank you. Never any talk...It's a family of stone, petrified so deeply its impenetrable... We don't' even look at each other.

While many will find this novella uncomfortable, it is told from the perspective of one's experience. That, of course, doesn't make it right. Yet, Duras brings her story to light with words that shatter, break apart, and never really come together with the intention of a happy ending. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time.

4/5 stars
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
977 reviews1,093 followers
November 18, 2019
Somewhere between 4 and 5 stars.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked this up. Sepia tinted nostalgia. Eroticism. Regrets. Sadness. I knew that it was a vaguely fictionized version of an episode of Duras’ adolescence, when she fell in love and began a sexual relation with an older Chinese businessman when she lived in French Indochina. I knew that it explored her fractured relationship with her mother and her nameless lover’s tensions with his own father. I had heard that it captured that strange limbo between childhood and adulthood, when the very act of breathing feels uncomfortable and ill-fitting, like weirdly cut clothes. I thought, sure, that sounds like a book I’d like. I picked up a copy, read over a rainy Monday and put it on my shelf feeling like I had been hit over the head.

The prose is fluid and dreamlike, probably because it’s the voice of an old woman looking back at her far away past: the details are vague, some faces are blurred and it can sometimes feel like Duras narrates her tale from a place of aloofness, but I feel like it’s simply the distance of years. When I look back at things that happened when I was fifteen, it almost feels like it happened to someone else – and I’m nowhere near seventy years old yet. The writing is also saturated with suffering, and it leaves a trace of pain like an oil slick over the whole story. Duras never complains about her circumstances, she simply wants to say “This happened. It damaged me. I kept living anyway.” And yet it is impossible not empathize with her loneliness, her resentment, her feelings of abandonment and her need to feel like someone wants and values her.

Obviously, everything about this coupling is forbidden: the lovers’ age, race and class differences mean their relationship will never be anything but doomed, but they need each other to escape their respective misery, feeling that the only peace and understanding they will ever find is with the other.

Many people have compared it to “Lolita” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), because it’s a disturbing story about an older man and a young “girl”, beautifully written. It is unsettling, but I didn’t feel like it was the relationship between the girl and the business man that was wrong: it was the abuse they both suffered. When you are damaged, sometimes you find comfort in the strangest places, and I doesn’t feel like it’s my place to judge them. "Lolita" was horrifying because Humbert made Lo suffer; "The Lover" is moving because they are united by their pain.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,064 reviews2,891 followers
September 15, 2022
Despite its title, The Lover is not a love story. Like Nabokov's Lolita, older men take advantage of underage girls, pretending as though these "sexual arrangements" (i.e. rape in Lolita and statutory rape in The Lover) are born out of pure affection and mutual respect.

But whereas Lolita is told from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, Nabokov's confessional protagonist, who tries to win over his audience from his jail cell, painting himself as the image of a "hopeless romantic" with an incurable illness, Marguerite Duras chooses to tell the narrative from the point of view of the young protagonist, a 15-year-old girl with a dysfunctional family and lower-class background.

In Lolita, the voice of Dolores Haze is effectively strangled by Humbert's narration. We don't get to hear her side of the story. We don't even get to know her as a real person. Lolita is the name that Humbert bestows upon her, it is a manifestation of Humbert's fantasy in which Dolores becomes the sole object of his desire, she is no longer a subject. Dolores becomes Lolita, the "nymph", whose sole purpose it is to satisfy Humbert's twisted fantasy of her. Who this 12-year-old girl really is? The readers will never know.

And whilst Duras refuses to giver her 15-year-old protagonist a name, we nonetheless get her side of the story, and only hers. We learn of her dysfunctional family, of her 27-year-old "lover", the son of prominent Chinese businessman. The "lover" mimics Humbert’s obsessive attachment to his nameless paramour. However, Duras strips their relationship of any romantic pretense, a means that is achieved by having the narrative be told in retrospect, the language the older protagonist uses when looking back on her youth is stripped from false romance and is often tainted with regret.
The story of my life doesn’t exist. Does not exist. There’s never any center to it. No path, no line. There are great spaces where you pretend there used to be someone, but it’s not true, there was no one.
Throughout the narrative, which refuses to acknowledge traditional chronology and instead goes back and forth between the protagonist's present as a famous French writer and her childhood and youth in French Indochina, we catch glimpses at the young girl's harsh realities. The sudden death of her father impacted her family not only emotionally but financially, as they had to survive without him in Indochina. Consequently, the girl's mother – "she was desperate with despair" – owes numerous debts and often loses herself in the blackout despair of her manic depression. The girl also lives in constant fear of her brothers. Her older brother is violent, aggressive, selfish and vagrant and terrorises the whole family; her younger brother is his prime victim, a fact that distresses the girl greatly: "I tell him my elder brother's cold, insulting violence is there whatever happens to us, whatever comes our way. His first impulse is always to kill, to wipe out, to hold sway over life, to scorn, to hunt, to make suffer."

It is out of this complicated and harrowing family situation that the girl seeks and stays in the unconventional relationship to her rich and older "lover". Out of financial necessity and fear, she seeks stability through him. But when her "lover" takes her family out to dinner at fancy restaurants, it's nothing more but a painful and shame-inducing transaction. Her family will barely speak, let alone look at her lover, resenting the fact that they have to depend on a Chinese man for food, but not proud enough to refuse. The narrator reflects: "When it concerns my lover I’m powerless against myself. Thinking about it now brings back the hypocrisy to my face, the absent-minded expressions of someone who stares into space."

Critics have often labeled The Lover as an erotic novel, but to me, the erotic or romantic "relationship" serves only as the backdrop to a larger, overarching theme: the loss of childhood for the disillusion of rushed adulthood. The girl is constantly on the defense with her unpredictable mother, who has no faith in her. The girl confesses to her lover, "Today I tell him it's a comfort, this sadness, a comfort to have fallen at last into a misfortune my mother has always predicted for me when she shrieks in the desert of her life." Dolores and Charlotte, the bickering mother and daughter in Lolita, share a similarly broken relationship. However, Nabokov denies Dolores the chance to ever grow up. Dolores death in childbirth at age seventeen, always defined by the possession of a man.

Duras discards the male gaze in her narrative. Her unnamed protagonist gets to grow up. She is not victimized or infantilized. It's no surprise that the girl hopes to be a writer when she grows up. o write is to make sense of the world, to carve a place for oneself, to affirm the importance and relevance of one's existence. Unlike Dolores Haze, this nameless girl gets the opportunity to fight for autonomy. There's still an obvious power imbalance between the girl and her lover, but she is less a tricked hostage, whisked away for an endless road trip that would be every girl's worst nightmare. Romantic love is not the end goal, even though the girl seeks relief from her isolation and loneliness in her "relationship", her end goal is emancipation through the pursuit of physical connection.

In the introduction of the English translation, Maxine Hong Kingston writes: "The girl and her mother and brothers are barbarians, sans culture. How to enroot oneself but to make primitive, sexual connection with another?" Tired of being rootless, the girl finds a temporary home in a stranger who is just as lost, barely afloat.

Even though the events Duras describes revolve around highly sensitive topics (such as emotional and physical abuse, racism in the French colonies, and issues of consent in relationships involving teenagers and adults), she is not afraid to be honest with her readers. There is no romanticizing of her colonial childhood nor of the trauma that she carried until her death. Nonetheless, The Lover is highly poetic and Duras a lyrical writer. Through her words, she manages to transport her readers to a world that no longer exists, a world of Indochinese landscapes and people she saw abound. If you let it, The Lover will take a hold of you, and it won't let go.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books155k followers
November 6, 2012
This is what they mean when they say, "lush prose."
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews387 followers
May 5, 2017
When I picked this book up I was drawn to the haunting picture of the girl on the cover, which turns out to be Marguerite Duras, the author. After reading I'm thinking, I can't believe this book is not more prominent in the mainstream of modern literature. It's a French novel, beautifully written, and set in early 20th century French Colonial Indochina, primarily Vietnam. It's the story of a 15 year old French girl and her affair with an older man, a wealthy Chinese. The girl is an outcast in her own dysfunctional family, a family that is struggling to hold it's place, economically and emotionally, in the strange and ancient culture of Vietmam. Loved it. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,357 reviews2,287 followers
January 26, 2021
It was as if he loved the pain, loved it as he'd loved me, intensely, unto death perhaps, and as if he preferred it now to me.

Gorgeously disturbed and disturbing, fragrant with melancholy and a kind of sepia-tinted nostalgia for lost innocence, youth, love. But while the ostensible eponymous lover is the wealthy Chinese man with whom the barely adult (she's fifteen) narrator has a subversive affair, I can't help feeling that this is more widely concerned with love of a place, a time, a family and - especially - a mother who simultaneously enrages and yet leaves the narrator wanting to know and possess her: 'she makes you want to kill her, she conjures up a marvellous dream of putting her to death with your own hands'.

Evocations of sex, desire and death collide and repeat themselves and we return obsessively to key moments: the girl on the boat in her silk dress, man's hat and gold lamé shoes, the expensive black limousine, photographs that encode a lost time and people no longer living.

Duras' prose is hallucinogenic, mesmerising and, like other female writers (Jean Rhys comes immediately to mind, also Elizabeth Bowen), she is expert at writing through what isn't said - life and meaning exists in the gaps of the unspoken. The narrator also slips seamlessly between past and present, between 'I' and 'she' as she turns her older, writer's gaze on the girl she once was, making herself both subject and author of the text - a text which balances tentatively somewhere on the spectrum between fiction and notorious biography.

With a light touch, Duras sketches in what it means to grow up female, poor, but a member of a white coloniser race in what was French Indo-China (now Vietnam), and gestures towards all kinds of transgressions related to gender, race, age, even what is and isn't allowed within conventional family feelings.

At only around 120 pages, this is extraordinarily resonant, both beautiful but also troubling for many reasons. What an oversight that so little of Duras' writing has been translated and is in print.
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October 6, 2017
امشب دیگر تحمل فکر کردن به مرد شولنی را در خود نمی‌بینم. تحمل فکر کردن به هلن را هم ندارم. بنظر می‌رسد که زندگی این دو از نوعی غنا برخوردار است، غنایی که بیرون از وجود آن‌هاست؛ من اما گویا از این چیزها مبرا هستم. به قول مادرم "این دخترک به چیزی دلخوش نیست". گویا زندگی دارد چهره‌ی واقعی‌اش را به من نشان می‌دهد. بنظرم حالا دیگر باید این چیزها را برای خودم بگویم، بگویم که میل گنگی به مردن دارم و این کلمه را دیگر از این پس جدا از خودم نمی‌دانم. میل گنگی به تنها بودن دارم، در عین حال می‌دانم از وقتی که کودکی‌ام را پشت سر گذاشتم، بعد از ترک آن خانواده‌ی حیله‌گر، دیگر تنها نیستم. نوشتن کتاب را به زودی شروع می‌کنم. آنچه در فراسوی اکنون می‌بینم همین است، در برهوتی بی‌انتها که در هرجایش گستره‌ی حیاتم برایم آشکار می‌شود

قصه‌ی خانه‌ی مادربزرگ

خواندن "عاشق" مانند این است که روی پای مادربزرگی فرتوت بنشینید و به داستان‌ها و خاطراتش از نخستین عشق گوش دهید. ولی داستانی که مارگریت دوراس از این عشق نخست تعریف می‌کند با داستان‌های دیگر تفاوت دارد، ناگفتنی‌هایی از عشقی لولیتا‌وار که حالا بعد از گذر بیش از نیم قرن، در هفتاد سالگی مجال بروز پیدا کرده‌اند. روابط عاشقانه‌ی دوراس همیشه عنصری غیرعادی و عجیب در خودش داشته و از این جهت بسیار خاص بوده. اگر بر اساس توالی زمانی از آخرین رابطه‌اش به گذشته بازگردیم، رابطه‌ی دوراس 66 ساله با یان آندره‌آ 33 ساله، رابطه با دیونیس ماسکلو (فعال سیاسی عضو نهضت مقاومت فرانسه) ، رابطه‌ی رسمی با روبر آنتلم (زندانی معروف فرانسوی در اردوگاه‌های مرگ نازی‌ها) و رابطه‌ی دوراس 15 ساله با مرد چینی شولنی 32 ساله. کتاب عاشق، ماجرای این رابطه است

یک
ماجرای کل روایت در ویتنامِ مستعمره‌ی فرانسه می‌گذرد. در جامعه‌ای با اکثریت ویتنامی و اقلیت فرانسوی و چینی. مارگریت 15 ساله در مسیر پانسیون شبانه‌روزی با مرد چینی ثروتمندی از محله شولن آشنا می‌شود، مرد دیوانه‌وار به او عشق می‌ورزد و بعد از مدت کوتاهی روابط جنسی آن‌ها در خانه‌ای در محله شولن آغاز می‌شود. دوراس و مردچینی اندک اندک رسوا می‌شوند و در نهایت آن‌ها برای همیشه از هم جدا می‌شوند و دوراس ویتنام را به مقصد فرانسه ترک می‌کند. دوراس در این کتاب بیش از هرچیزی از خانواده‌اش می‌نویسد، از برادر ضعیف و کوچکی که دیوانه‌وار دوستش داشت و با مرگش انگار خودش مرد، برادر بزرگتری معتادی که در خیالش بارها او را کشته بود و آرزوی مرگش را می‌کرد و مادری که فقر حاصل از ورشکستگی کمرش را شکسته و به مرز جنون کشانده بود. او در آن روزها به خود قول می‌دهد تا روزی سرگذشت مادرش و تیره‌روزی‌هایش را بنویسد، بگوید که چگونه آب رفت و محو شد، که ماموران دولتی چه بر سرش آوردند و چگونه موجب مرگش شدند

دو
مدت‌هاست که می‌شناسمتان، همه می‌گویند که در سال‌های جوانی قشنگ بوده‌اید، ولی من آمده‌ام اینجا تا به شما بگویم که چهره‌ی فعلی‌تان به‌مراتب قشنگ‌تر از دوران جوانی‌تان است. من این چهره‌ی شکسته را بیشتر از آن چهره‌ی جوان دوست دارم.

کتاب با ذکر این جمله‌ی یان‌اندره‌آ، عاشق شیدای دوراس در سنین پیری آغاز می‌شود، چنانکه مخاطب در آغاز خیال می‌کند که کتاب درباره‌ی او نوشته شده است، ولی عاشق در اینجا کس دیگری‌ست، مردی از قاره‌ای دیگر. انگیزه‌ی دوراس از رابطه‌اش با مرد شولنی چه بود؟ بدیهی‌ست که مرد چینی او را دیوانه‌وار دوست داشت و اگرچه بخاطر الزامات خانواده‌ی سنتی‌اش هرگز نتوانست حتی خیال آینده‌ای مشترک با دوراس را در سر بپروراند، ولی سال‌ها پس از جدایی از دوراس و ازدواجش با نجیب‌زاده‌ای چینی، طی تماس تلفنی با دوراس دوباره اظهار عشق می‌کند و می‌گوید تا عشقش به او تا روزی که بمیرد زنده خواهد ماند، اما دوراس چه؟ بنظر می‌رسد دوراس هیچوقت مرد چینی را دوست نداشته و صرفا بخاطر وضعیت مالی او به رابطه با او تن داده است، چنانکه مادرش نیز پس از دریافت پول مرد شولنی از مدیر پانسیون می‌خواهد فرزندش را آزاد بگذارد. با این وجود دوراس بعد از جدایی از مرد چینی تصور می‌کند شاید مرد شولنی، این چینی سراپا عاشق را دوست داشته و درگیری خود رابطه مانع از درک چنینی احساسی شده باشد

سه
این اثر بیش از آنکه خاطره‌نویسی باشد، یک رمان نو محسوب می‌شود و از این رو روایت توالی زمانی مشخصی ندارد و وقایع بطور پراکنده در متن جا گرفته است. خواندن این اثر به مانند این است که گویی خواننده به تماشای رودی گل‌آلود نشسته است و وقایع دور و نزدیک زندگی دوراس را که در رودخانه شناور است می‌بیند. بدیهی‌ست که فهم دقیق و برقراری ارتباط با چنین اثری می‌تواند برای مخاطب دشوار باشد، اما فیلم اقتباسی‌ رمان عاشق به کارگردانی ژان ژاک آنو (1992) داستانی منسجم از دل این اثر بیرون کشیده و بدون تکلف، با وفاداری عمیق به متن، ماجرای این عشق را به تصویر می‌کشد. از این رو دیدن فیلم را برای درک هرچه بهتر این اثر توصیه می‌کنم

پی‌نوشت: قسمت‌هایی از کتاب، بخصوص جزئیات روابط دوراس و مرد چینی در نسخه‌ی فارسی سانسور شده (که نمی‌توان از مترجم خرده گرفت)، دیدن فیلم این کاستی‌های متن فارسی را کاملا جبران می‌کند
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