cover image The Easy Life

The Easy Life

Marguerite Duras, trans. from the French by Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan. Bloomsbury, $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-63557-851-5

The intense second novel by Prix Goncourt winner Duras (The Lover), first published in 1944 and translated into English for the first time, involves a young woman dealing with a series of tragedies. Francine Veyrenattes, 25, lives a staid life on her family farm, where she’s close with her brother, Nicolas. After Francine learns their uncle Jêrome is having an affair with Nicolas’s wife, she tells Nicolas and goads him into attacking Jêrome, which he does. Jêrome’s subsequent death prompts more devastating consequences and Francine flee to a seaside town where she spends her grief-stricken days in an emotional haze, and nights alone in her hotel room, ruminating on her existence. She asks what it means to be a person, a woman, and a body in a world that seeks to destroy and devalue those things, as well as what it means to be a person with a story as opposed to having a simpler life without tragedy. Though some of the narration can feel a bit redundant, Duras (1914–1996) drops more than enough sharp revelations to carry the reader along. Though it’s not quite at the level of her masterworks, it offers glimpses of the heights to come. (Dec.)