Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on February 5, 2012
Marguerite Duras wrote dozens of books, mostly fiction. This is an early novel, recently translated for the first time into English by Barbara Bray. The translation is consistent with the feel of the book and with other Duras I've read, mostly in English, but a couple early on in French.
Reading almost any section of this book without knowing the author or when it was published and you would still know French, 1950s. Languid sums it up. The narrator has worked for eight years transcribing birth and death certificates for the government. His girl friend works in the same office. Everyone, including the narrator, agrees that this (both the job and the girl) need to be jettisoned, but our narrator can only bring himself to sigh, nod in agreement and do nothing.
Events transpire and for some reason he ditches everything: job, girl, suitcase with all his belongings, and joins the rich young beautiful widow who inherited endless wealth and a huge yacht from her United States husband who kills himself when she leaves him after a couple of years. She in turn spends her life, and the book, searching for her lover, a mysterious murderer known only as the Sailor from Gibraltar. If the plot sounds looney, it is, but it doesn't matter. The plot isn't the point. This, as with much of Duras, is a book to read when young, sitting for days at a cafe nursing a cup of coffee or a Pernod with a cigarette (yes, the cigarette is obligatory) while sighing every few minutes. First look at the yacht? "It filled me with a sort of crushing torpor."
Oh life. No one understands me, what shall I do? What is the meaning of my life? Why haven't I quit this pathetic excuse for a life that I am living and just go wherever the wind carries me (though with an endlessly rich and beautiful lover certainly makes it easier)?
Well written and evocative, but oh so of its time and place!