“Very early in my life it was too late. It was already too late when I was eighteen.”
Like most 16 years old young women on the brink of adulthood, I was easily influenced and incredibly introspective. Naïve, yet on the brink of knowing everything, I yearned to have it all, know it all and be fulfilled by it all. I was a voracious reader (I still am) and frequently disappeared into the world of fiction, forever changed by the worlds introduced to me by Shakespeare, Austen, Mitford, Christie and *cough* whoever wrote Sweet Valley High.
At about this time I met someone who was soon to become a dear friend. In reality, she is more like a big (wiser) sister. I can tell her anything and everything and she certainly knows where all the bodies are buried. My friend-come-sister L is also a voracious reader and in this period in both our lives we traded shared experiences of reading – anything from Anna Karenina to The Thoughts of Nanushka. I look back and cringe how desperate I was to acquire experiences of romance and love.
L introduced me to The Lover. There are no words to describe this exquisite collection of beautifully formed words. For me it was the perfect book. It may not be so perfect to me now and yet it still makes me weep. Set in colonial Vietnam, it has everything: forbidden romance; the subjugation of colonialsation and race; gender disparities and mental illness. For such a trés petite novel, it contains a mighty tour de force.
In many ways Duras’ prose is like the syncopated rhythm of jazz. Sometimes it is elegant and sometimes it is discombobulated. But at all times, this autobiographical novel is enrapturing and I read it time and time again to be seduced by the lover within.