Publisher: Pantheon

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Posted March 20, 2017 by Michael Kitto in Classic / 0 Comments

The Lover by Marguerite DurasTitle: The Lover (Goodreads)
Author: Marguerite Duras
Translator: Barbara Bray
Published: Pantheon, 1984
Pages: 117
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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Marguerite Duras is best known for her novel L’Amant (The Lover), which was published in 1984 and won the Prix Goncourt for that year. Set in the colony of French Indochina (now known as Vietnam) during the 1920s, the novel explores the salacious love affair between a fifteen-and-a-half year-old French girl and a wealthy Chinese man. What makes this a literary masterpiece is the exploration into desire (and colonialism) and the experimental style that Duras adopted for this novel.

The narrative devices adopted in L’Amant allows Marguerite Duras to tell an autobiographical story while offering a form of self-reflection and way to analyse her own feelings. To do this Duras often switches perspective from first person to third person as well as switching from a current point in the story to a flashback. For me the effects of these literary devices offered an ideal contemplation into the emotions Marguerite must have been going through and also providing a meditation into the art of writing.

The Lover was published when Marguerite Duras was seventy, fifty-five years after she met Léo while traveling by ferry across the Mekong Delta from her home in the town of Sa Đéc, to her boarding school in Saigon. The depiction of love was so masterfully done in the novel, I knew exactly how Duras was feeling. The whole idea of a first love and then reflecting back on it many years later only to find that what you thought was a great love was merely an infatuation. I think this was what brought The Lover together and what stuck with me the most.

Since it is a love affair between a young French girl and an older Chinese man in Saigon, I think we need to talk about colonialism when reflecting on L’Amant. You can see the disapproving opinions playing out from her widowed mother but it was the wealthy father who had the biggest impact on the Chinese businessman’s relationship. I had thought that class struggle and colonialism would have played a bigger part in a book like this but I feel that Marguerite Duras handled the idea well with just how the characters interacted with each other.

I was thrilled by The Lover and the passionate love affair in this novel. Though I have to say it was Marguerite Duras skilful use of narrative devices that really made this a new favourite. I want to dip in and out of this book and I have only just finished it. I was even tempted to carry this novel around, just so I can read a passage or two while I had a spare moment. You may notice that I have been reading a decent amount of French literature lately and it is because of novels like this that I am currently obsessed. I hope to one day have the necessary skills to read L’Amant in French; I have been practising the language just for novels like this.


The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe

Posted March 16, 2013 by Michael Kitto in Childrens, Humour / 0 Comments

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon DefoeTitle: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (Goodreads)
Author: Gideon Defoe
Series: The Pirates! #1
Published: Pantheon, 2004
Pages: 144
Genres: Childrens, Humour
My Copy: Personal Copy

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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists follows the story of the Pirate captain and his unorthodox crew. On their adventures they meet Charles Darwin and his highly trained and sophisticated “man-panzee” Mister Bobo. Darwin has been banished from London by a rival scientist and manages to convince the Pirate captain to help defeat his enemies.

While this book and the rest of the series is not aimed at children, it comes as a real surprise that the stop animation movie adaption was. I’ve not seen the movie but I can’t imagine a cannon ball ripping through a woman’s head would make for good movie viewing. Having said that I wouldn’t mind seeing that, the humour would be well worth seeing. The humour really relies on clichés and irony, while will make for a very entertaining experience. While the book has the humour there is a visual aspect to some of the jokes that really would work better in a movie.

I think book really reads more like a script for a movie and while it isn’t laid out that way I can’t help but thing that a movie adaptation was the main goal of the author. I know of people who have seen the movie and then went on to enjoy the books and I think that might be the order required. I can’t help think the humour was a cross between Monty Python and Wallace and Gromit, yet again why I think the movie would work better.

While the rest of the book falls into the realms of cliché, this book is all about the humour and nothing else. I would have liked a better plot and better characters but clearly this wasn’t the focus at all. I’m really not sure if I want to continue with this series but for a bit of light reading I might return, but I have so many other books I want to read so I doubt I’ll be back anytime soon.