cover image The Impudent Ones

The Impudent Ones

Marguerite Duras, trans from the French by Kelsey L. Haskett. The New Press, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62097-651-7

The first novel by Duras (1914–1996), who won the Prix Goncourt for her landmark The Lover, available for the first time in English, is unfortunately a peculiarly bland work of juvenilia, a boring book about bored, bourgeois people. Duras’s focus is the Grant-Taneran family, who dwell in a Parisian suburb. They are: vexed matriarch Mrs. Grant-Taneran, her retiring second husband, their son Henry, and two children from her previous marriage—coquettish Maud and “nasty,” indolent spendthrift Jacques, whose fiendishness drives what action there is. Travelling to their overgrown summer estate in the country, a marriage plot develops as Maud is courted first by the bucolic farm boy John Pecresse, then the dashing hunter George Durieux. Scandal seems to follow the family wherever they go, and Jacques schemes to turn his sister’s reputation as a fallen woman to his advantage, which she counters by reporting Jacques to the police for counterfeit bills. Essays by Haskett and biographer Jean Vallier are of more interest than the novel itself, situating its semiautobiographical story historically and with regard to Duras’s perennial themes and future career. This lackluster novel has strictly scholarly appeal. (Mar.)