cover image North China Lover

North China Lover

Marguerite Duras. New Press, $19.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-018-8

The veteran French author, who scored a considerable success with The Lover, here zeroes in much more closely on the passionate affair between her young self, a French teenager at a school in Indo-China in the early 1930s, and the spoiled young son of a Chinese millionaire. Beginning as bare notes toward a film script (Duras wrote the script for Hiroshima, Mon Amour), the story quickly takes on its own intense, exotic flavor. The febrile sexuality of the young girls at the school, the languid emotionalism of the Chinese lover, the splendid cars, the melancholy American dance music, the open roads across the rice paddies under wide rainy skies, the cinemas and nightclubs, and finally the ocean liner that takes her tragic family back to F'rance-Duras evokes all this with the utmost economy but the most telling atmospheric force. No doubt her lean, haunting prose reads even more beautifully in the original French, but Duras's story is so powerfully imagined (or remembered) that its blend of passion and cynicism lingers like a strong perfume. Irresistible for grownup romantics. (Oct.)