In an afterword, Duras ( The Lover ) claims this story is mostly autobiographical, but it reads like a twisted fairy tale. Her fabulous account of a poor immigrant family living in a Paris suburb derives from the film Les Enfants , which she made in 1984. In the novel, the mother hails from Eastern Europe, the father from Italy; a series of temporary residency permits has allowed them to stay on in France, where they have produced a brood of seven extraordinarily handsome and gifted children. While the parents are lost in their passionate, obsessive love, the children are left to fend for themselves. The two eldest take responsibility for their siblings--and even fall in love with each other. Ultimately, this story is a thinly veiled parable about the nature of knowledge and the loss of innocence, revealing how original sin breaks people and their relationships. And while admirers of Duras may delight in a restatement of her archetypal characters (mysterious, transgressive mother) and familiar themes (incest), some will finish this elusive book disappointedsince reading-as-eating conceit ends previous review . The philosophical questions raised are neither provocative nor compelling enough to sustain the novel's paper-thin characters, surreal dialogue and shadowy love story. (May)
Exponent of the Nouveau Roman, French author, playwright, and filmmaker Duras is best known in the United States for the script of Hiroshima Mon Amour and the semiautobiographical novel The Lover ( LJ 6/1/85). Although it lacks the exotic love interest of these two works, this novel--which typifies Duras's spare style and rejection of classical literary principles--does contain a love story. The story concerns an immigrant family living on the edge of civilized society in Vitry, a suburb of Paris. The parents are uneducated and the seven children do not attend school. Family members exert strong underlying bonds upon one another, which are finally broken when the eldest, Ernesto, connects with the world beyond. As in the film she based on this story, Duras now succeeds in making a dreary, hopeless suburb, that least literary of places, an exploration of the most basic concerns of humanity. Academic libraries will want this for literature collections, and public libraries that collect Duras's works will also be interested.--Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.