cover image Abahn Sabana David

Abahn Sabana David

Marguerite Duras, trans. from the French by Kazim Ali. Open Letter, $12.95 trade paper (108p) ISBN 978-1-940953-36-6

The three title characters in Duras’s provocative novel, first published in France in 1970 and now available in English for the first time, meet at a country house on a cold night. David and Sabana have come from an unspecified city with the intention, readers learn at length, of killing Abahn, whom they call “the Jew.” A fourth character, referred to as “the Gringo,” arrives later. (His name also happens to be Abahn.) They talk about race, politics, history, and political parties in a manner reminiscent of absurdist theater. Dogs howl, people cry without realizing it, and a gun is brandished and eventually fired. Duras’s sleek prose unfurls like poetry: terse, punchy sentences that often move down the page rather than across it into paragraphs. The language is repetitive, often elliptical, digging at concepts in multiple passes. Often the spare language achieves a provocative resonance: “They are silent once more. David cries out suddenly. He does not wake, just cries out a little.” Depending on a reader’s temperament, it can engross or frustrate. Those swept up in Duras’s elegant imbroglio may read it in a single sitting, then tackle it again. (June)