Can and should we try to control it? To trust it? To understand it? Do we shape our desires or do they shape us? What part of us is desire? Is it the purest and deepest aspect of human nature? Where does it come from? Can a desire on its own be vile or virtuous or only actions are bound to be judged? How much do we know about our desires and where do they lead us? What brings two people together? What brings together a French girl and Chinese man twelve years olde Desire.
What brings together a French girl and Chinese man twelve years older than her? Set in the s in Indochina, this is a tale about two people trying to break their bonds, but unable to do so. They are kindred spirits in more ways than one. They are both oppressed by their families, they are both unable to understand their feelings. They lose themselves in passion that is born from more than romance.
It is a passion for change, for freedom. But can there be truly freedom in desire?
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Is desire bound to enslave us or free us? Buddhists believe that desire is the reason for all human suffering and only liberation of desire may lead to ultimate happiness. But along with pain can we also find pleasure in unfulfilled desires? Is all longing pain and dissatisfaction? Can it be an inspiration, a fuel?
Should we give up the possibility for more in order to fully enjoy what we have now or should we sacrifice some of that bliss for the hope of a bigger one? Longing brings pain and emptiness with itself, but it also makes the good part even better. Which is better? An ordinary, calm, perfect happiness or happiness stained by the pain which comes with longing, but also enriched by the intensity and passion that come along with it? The former sounds better if we accept that happiness is just a lack of pain. But Is it just that? They also desire what ultimately can never bring them happiness.
Often the greatest joys and sorrows are consequences of each other. This is a story of doomed lovers, who love each other with all the intensity and passion of people who know they are about to lose each other. But he never said anything about the images he saw behind his closed eyes. Do we treasure the most that which we are bound to lose? Do we sometimes risk to lose it in order to feel it more intensely? If we always want more, does that make us adventurers, masochists, seekers of wisdom…or maybe just people?
Desire can built us or ruin us.
Sometimes is does both. If desire is pleasure and pain equally, how do we cope? How do the protagonists do it? She admits her feelings only in the end, when she has already lost him. Maybe because she was afraid that loving him would make the loss all the more painful?
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Maybe this is why he loves pain. It is pain born out of feeling which he savours at its wholesome. Do we dare to be adventurous and desire or are we determined to treasure that which we already have? Dreams of the future can both enrich and rob us of our present. It is all about balance. We should always look with hope for the future and dream, but not in a way that makes us forget the value of that which we have now.
We should always remember the value of what we already have, but we should also always remember to dream. Worlds are built on dreams and desires. Read count: View all 25 comments. Shelves: european-literature , france , cherished , romance , novellas-short-novels-short-stories , melancholia , autobiographical-biography-memoir , gbbw , and-more , by-women-who-matter. Something dark and deeply unsettling simmers angrily beneath the surface of this narrative. This 'something' becomes so potent a force, arousing fear and feelings of disgust in the reader, that one is often tempted to abandon reading and save oneself from all the unpleasantness Duras shoves right in the reader's face without inhibitions.
It is a tale of Marguerite Something dark and deeply unsettling simmers angrily beneath the surface of this narrative. It is a tale of Marguerite Duras' childhood years spent in what is modern day Vietnam and reads almost like a memoir or piece of non-fiction at times. The narrator of The Lover is sometimes a young girl of 15, sometimes a woman, sometimes a mere child, sometimes an old lady living in France as an established novelist and sometimes a girl caught in a painful identity crisis.
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Duras' erratic narration and tendency to flip back and forth between the past and present and her personal contemplations slightly in a Slaughterhouse-Five ish way ensure that the reader occasionally loses the thread connecting all the events. But even so the story resonates strongly with the one reading and and one can barely prevent a disturbing image of human suffering from being burned into their mind.
The unnamed narrator's voice is strangely full of apathy and indifference. It almost lacks a clear character. There are times when the resentment in this young girl reaches a fever pitch and thrashes about restlessly for an outlet into the realm of reality. But in the very next moment, it reduces in intensity and assumes its former state of equanimity.
It is as if she is torn between feelings of revulsion and longing and cannot pick one over the other. Her existence itself seems precariously balanced on the predominant emotions of hatred and love that she feels for the people closest to her.
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She begins a turbulent love affair with a much older, rich Chinese man and this, in turn, becomes both a boon and a bane for her. He becomes her safe haven from the cruelties of life and the emotional and physical abuse she silently suffers at the hands of her own family members. But then, he also becomes the cause of her social stigma and shame - thus he is her tormentor and her savior at the same time. I see the war as like him, spreading everywhere, breaking in everywhere, stealing, imprisoning, always there, merged and mingled with everything, present in the body, in the mind, awake and asleep, all the time, a prey to the intoxicating passion of occupying that delightful territory, a child's body, the bodies of those less strong, of conquered peoples.
Initially it is hinted that the young girl is cold and indifferent towards her lover and possibly does not reciprocate his feelings. But at the end of the affair, she comes to the realization that her love for him may have been genuine after all. A perpetual state of chaos seems to prevail inside the adolescent protagonist's head and this almost becomes an accurate reflection of the tumultuous times of a colonized, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Indo-China present Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - a war-ravaged land whose fortunes remained at the mercy of various colonial masters for decades.
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Even though a doomed romance forms the main subject matter of this book, what often overshadows its acutely depressing tones, is the looming presence of Indo-China. Duras' love for this land shines through the haze of her traumatic years.
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Because interspersed between the disturbing imagery, there are beautiful descriptions of Cholon, the Chinese capital of French Indo-China, bustling with life and activity, the river Mekong and the morning ferry carrying its passengers across to Saigon, where the young girl goes to boarding school. Thus it is heartening to see that Vietnam is not reduced to the status of a mere backdrop in a tale of personal miseries but comes alive in its state of silent agony, in Duras' sparse but beautiful prose.
Its sights and sounds and smells and landscapes become an integral part of this semi autobiographical novella and add a distinct character to it. There's nothing solid separating us from other people. They don't know of our existence. We glimpse something of theirs, the sum of their voices, of their movements, like the intermittent hoot of a siren, mournful, dim. Whiffs of burnt sugar drift into the room, smell of roasted peanuts, Chinese soups, roast meat, herbs, jasmine, dust, incense, charcoal fires, they carry fire about in baskets here, it's sold in the street, the smell of the city is the smell of the villages upcountry, of the forest.
But even then it rightly deserves the 4 stars I awarded it, simply because it succeeds in painting a moving picture of ambivalent relationships, that transcends the boundaries of race or ethnicity and appeals to the universal human spirit.