The Thrill of Reading a Celebrated Writer’s Early Work

Reading the early works of well-known, respected authors always reminds me of looking at a baby’s face: it seems impossible to know the way in which the countenance will sharpen and emerge, how mushy it is, and sometimes indistinguishable from others— — and, when looking back at pictures of babies as they grow up, it’s hard to imagine the face ever being what it used to be.

The second book by French novelist Marguerite Duras, easy life, which has just been translated into English for the first time by Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan, may not be very attractive on its own. The thrill of reading it comes from seeing all the ways Duras has become the writer she will be for the next 50 years, from recognizing how the interests she has cultivated throughout her career have progressed.

If part of Duras’ power comes from the way her voice immerses you in its intensity, then this early novel gives us a glimpse of how she learned to wield it.exist easy life, Duras attempts, often unsuccessfully, to illuminate complex and abstract themes: identity and gender, violence and desire.go through lover40 years later, publishing her most famous work, she has honed the tools at her disposal, replacing overly vague descriptions with short, specific scenes. Most of all, the novel brings the dark side of everyday emotion to the page without trying to explain it, trusting that the universality of human experience will make these ideas clear and accessible to the reader.

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Set in mid-20th century France, easy life is a straightforward enough story told mostly in a familiar linear form. The main character, Francine, is 25 years old, still living at home, and struggling to cope with a broken family. We follow her trying to understand her place in these events and figure out her relationship to the wider world. The novel begins with a vicious quarrel between Francine’s uncle Jerome and her brother Nicholas, who begins the quarrel after learning that Jerome is sleeping with his wife Clemens. Jerome soon died of his injuries. Francine is deeply guilty: she was the one who told Nicholas that his wife was having an affair. Clémence soon left Nicolas and her newborn baby to live with her sister. Francine, feeling responsible, helped care for the baby, allowing him to suck at her breast once.

This book contains all the portents of a novelist that the reader will know. As in so many of her other works, Duras creates an atmosphere where violence is palpable and constant—not so much an impulse embedded in individual characters as a chemical substance suspended in the air. While it is usually the men who commit the atrocities, it is often the women who act as catalysts. It’s usually the women who deal with the fallout.

After a second, more devastating death in the family, Francine also feels implicated, leaving her mother’s home to mourn in the town of T near the sea: “Who am I, who have I kept for myself until now? …I couldn’t find my place in the picture that just came out. I was floating beside her, so close, but there was something between us that couldn’t be joined.” This is the part that most resembles a mature Duras : The fluidity of identity makes it impossible to fully understand the wants, wants, and intentions of others, let alone your own. Thinking of the baby’s face again, it’s also the most mushy. These thoughts—the mystery of the self, the relentless struggle of time—are maddening and intractable, and Duras, trying too hard to fix them, tends to lose his grip on them.

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Duras wraps up swiftly and awkwardly the final part of the novel, with Francine receiving a marriage proposal from her brother’s friend. Associative movement instead of linear movement, lover Known for its brave form.Meanwhile, there have been some disappointing predictions, almost anachronistic – reminiscent of Jane Austen or Brontes – about how easy life It ends as if it were a simple marriage plot.

Duras wrote easy life In 1943, when I was almost 30 years old.she wrote lover— based on an affair she had with an older Chinese man as a teenager living in Indochina — 1984, age 70. lover introduces us to the image of the narrator’s aged face: “One day, when I was old, a man approached me at the entrance of a public place. He introduced himself and said, ‘I have known you for many years. Said you were beautiful when you were young, but… I like you better the way you are now. Devastated.’” After reading both books in rapid succession, I also felt that admiration, the power and crackle of that devastation.

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lover Expand by repetition. Despite the experimental form, Duras remarkably tells her story through specific moments, actions, and visuals: the narrator’s face at different ages, a picture of her son, the clothes she wears. She places us in conflict, tensions that won’t or can’t be resolved. By switching decades between passages and colliding with seemingly disparate images, Duras illuminates not only the complexity of the matter but the inextricable connection between the themes she has explored throughout her career. lover Examine almost every thought, in other words, easy life True, but dexterity is only acquired through experience and time.

So what can we glean from the smaller, mushy objects that were later made in sharper, clearer forms for those who bother us the same? Not least because nearly all the writing we do is practice.if lover is singular, easy life Proof that the singularity is slowly and consciously built up by deconstructing and reconsidering the form, by continually revolving around the same few concerns. Making art is almost always about failure, but in failure we gain more and more tools that may help us fail better and bolder next time.


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