Monday, June 07, 2010

The Lover

By Marguerite Duras

This is, I suppose, meant to be a literary classic. It says so on the cover. Also, Jean Jaques Annaud made this into a film back in the 1990's. Mette and I went to see it and I recall it as being quite good. Rather sensual.

This novel on the other hand is anything but sensual. Thankfully its not very long, but it was tedious. Duras's protagonist spends the entire time moaning about her siblings and the actual lover is a mere sketch of a character, a young Chinese fellow who cries a lot and looks away in shame. I don't know if this is meant to be autobiographic, but it has that feel to it. The protagonist and the way the books is written, fractured, in myriad paragraphs of sentences at odds with the narrative, lend a sense of weary bitterness to the story. The story itself is no story at all. A young French girl from a broken family in Saigon, takes a lover and... then nothing much happens. They make love, but this is mostly off stage. There are reactions, but these are muted. The family is at odds, but for no apparent purpose to the plot.

Characters slide into the story for single paragraphs and then disappear entirely. There is no reason why this happens, or why these particular paragraphs interrupt the story of the girl and her lover, only the assumption on behalf of the reader that the protagonist is hopping back and forth through time without any real reason.

Perhaps there is a reason and I just don't get it? The book feels like a window into a forgotten world of French literary significance, one which doesn't have the universal appeal of Hugo or Balzac. I'm reading Sabatini now, and though a much older novel, looking at things from even further back, I'm still able to connect with the past in a way that I couldn't with 'The Lover'.

Duras reminds me of Satre (whose name she drops at one point). Utterly pointless. Navel gazing as art. If this is how French intellectuals make love, then count me out!

1 comment:

mlj said...

I read this, thinking it'd be good. I was disappointed too..