The Lover – by Marguerite Duras

“I often think of the image I can see now, and of which I’ve never spoken. It’s always there, in the same silence, amazing. It’s the only image of myself I like, the only one in which I recognize myself, in which I delight.”

Marguerite Duras wrote this novel when she was 70 years old, reminiscing of the years she lived in Sa Đéc and Saigon under French colonization. The image that she mentioned many times in the novel is etched in my mind – a young French girl of fifteen and a half years old riding the ferry across the Mekong River. She was standing on the deck, wearing a dress, a pair of gold lamé shoes, and a fedora hat. It was a fateful day that she met a wealthy Chinese Vietnamese man who later became her lover.

The Lover was written in disjointed vignettes which jump oddly in time and settings. Through the lushly written ramblings, the novel painted the cultural segregation between the French and the Asians in the French Indochina, the hard life of a financially struggling and depressed French family, the violent relationship between them, and above all the desire for love of a fifteen and a half year old girl. She was too young to know what love was, and stated more than one time she did not love him. The novel was titled The Lover yet the lover was not introduced until one third into the book of just a little over 100 pages long.

Yet she realized years later that she did love him. And the novel was ended on a very romantic note.

L’amant was first published in 1985
Translated from French by Barbara Bray
Published in English in 1997 by Pantheon Books

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