the lover by m duras

This book was given to me by somebody back in college.  I honestly don’t remember who because that friend had also gotten it from another friend.  It’s been a few years since I opened the book, so you could only imagine my reaction when I found a note written inside its cover: “Anya recommended this book for me. I loved it.  So now I recommend it to you. Hope you enjoy it and likewise, pass it on- Kathy.”

The Lover by Marguerite Duras has often been labeled as a soft erotic novel.  I remember being uncomfortable when I read it years ago.  It must have been the innocence and the embedded fear of the unknown adult world that made me feel violated.  But now that I’ve read it at a ripened age of … “old enough”, I am able to better understand the literary aspects of such an unusual romance novel.

In fact, it was an autobiography when it was published in 1984.  It was the second publication that was fictionally heightened after the book was adopted in cinematography. I’m not sure how the movie turned out but look forward to coming across it someday.  The book doesn’t consist of any action or dialog…   The protagonists narrates from the beginning to the very end, which immediately forms an emotional relationship with the reader.  She was born into a French family living in Indochina (present-day Vietnam) in 1914.  She grew up with her soon widowed mother and older brother in poverty, and was occasionally beaten to bruises by both of them.  It must’ve been the hardship that made her seek comfort from a thirty-year-old Chinese man when she was only fifteen.  The tumultuous relationship and dramatic turn of events symbolize how dangerous yet naive first love can be, especially at such a young age.

The connection to Duras’ emotional distress lingered for me after I set the book aside.  The literary tone is not as vulgar and obscene as it was in Sapphire’s Push.  But it didn’t have to be the choice of words to really portray the intensity of the libidinous and emotionally complicated affair.  Can you imagine the burden of guilt for a fifteen year old who had to completely serve her body, mind, and soul for somebody who was more than a decade older?  It’s interesting and unfortunate how the absence of a strong father figure can deprecate the youthful romantic energy of a little girl… which haunts her even after a full lifetime has passed.

dee’s recommendation: 4/5