Marguerite Duras’ Universe of Love

Book Cover

Book Cover

Title: The Lover

Author: Marguerite Duras

Publication information: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1984 (first edition)


It won the Goncourt Prize in 1984 as the semi-autobiographical novel-turned-movie directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud in 1992. Set around the backdrop of French colonial Vietnam, The Lover reveals the intimacies of a clandestine romance between a fifteen-year-old girl from a French family and an older and rich Chinese man. Coming back from a vacation spent at a family home in Sa Dec (Dong Thap Province), the girl attracts the attention of the 27-year-old Chinese man. He strikes up a conversation with her and she accepts a ride back to town in his chauffeured limousine.

As her family’s fortune declines, she begins a sexual relationship with the Asian man who, in turn, financially supports her family, that is, until he bows to the disapproval of his father and breaks off the relationship. The two main nameless characters come from different positions in society and thus cannot have an official love story.

Interestingly, The Lover shifts from a third-person narration to a first-person narration, following a much closer path alongside the girl. Even though the relationship ends with many negative consequences for both sides, the reader empathizes with the young girl who is unable to run away from her love. She grows up too fast and will probably never know any other kind of love besides one based on the sexual relationship she first encountered. The two eventually come across one another again in Paris and though both are married with children, they will not forget their love.

Marguerite Duras, pseudonym of Marguerite Donnadieu (born in 1914, Vietnam, died in 1996, France), was a French novelist, screenwriter, scenarist, playwright, and film director. Her writing provided the original screenplay for Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima Mon Amour. This movie is based on the love story between a French actress and a Japanese architect. In the movie Hiroshima Mon Amour, as in the novel The Lover, Marguerite Duras explores the relationship between a Western woman and an Asian man, going against the societal taboos that still permeate our modern societies.


By Alessandra Bonanomi, reporter for The AsiaN

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