cover image Emily L.

Emily L.

Marguerite Duras. Pantheon Books, $15.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57233-8

This luminous tale of two couples, told in the spare haunted prose of the acclaimed Duras ( Hiroshima mon amour ; The Lover ) constitutes a penetrating meditation on love, art and the ruin wrought by time. A woman and man sit together in a quayside cafe near Le Havre, observing boats, people in the public square and the play of sunlight. The woman, a writer, muses aloud to her companion about their love, whose nuances inform the book she is writing. Gradually, their relationship becomes the framework for the story of an aging English pair seated nearby, a Captain and his ill, beautiful wife. In a dream-like manner, the English couple's past expands to fill the novel's canvas. As a girl on the Isle of Wright, the wife, Emily L., lived under her parents' rigid rule. The Captain, then a boat boy, loved her but, horribly jealous of the poetry she wrote, destroyed an unfinished lyric, preventing her from further work. The strange engrossing symbiosis of writer and beloved is delineated with passion and clarity in a volume that confirms Duras's reputation as a master. (May)