Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Impudent Ones by Marguerite Duras


This is the story of the Taneran family, a French family from the upper class who have fallen on hard times.  In addition to their residence in the city, they own a vineyard in the French countryside.  The matriarch of the family struggles to maintain the family's standard of living and to keep her children moving forward.  She greatly favors the son, Jacque, who by most objective standards is a horrid person only interested in himself and his comforts.  Her daughter, Maud is often ignored or put in a secondary situation.

As the novel opens, the family has come down to the country.  The mother is attempting to sell the vineyard to a local family and is willing to sacrifice Maud to be their son's wife in order to seal the deal.  Maud, on the other hand, is uninterested in the suitor picked for her and is fascinated by a man named George who is a friend of her brother.  

This was Duras' debut novel but has only now been translated and available in English.  It foreshadows many of the themes that are familiar to readers of Duras' later works such as The Lover.  It portrays family dynamics and the second class status of women.  Women's sexuality is explored but also seen as a source of shame in the social environment unless all rules are followed.

I listened to this novel.  The narrator had a calm voice that accurately portrayed the slow moving action of being in the country and falling into relationships.  After the book was over, there was about an hour of supplementary material, discussing Duras' work in general and the path that this book took to get to market.  It took several years and reworking before it was published.  Readers will be intrigued by the intricate familial relationships and the dawning of women demanding to be valued as much as men.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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