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L'Amant I opened the first page of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, and there she was, the girl with no name with all her ancient reminiscences I heard her voice as if it were inside my head, Very early in my life it was too late It was already too late when I was eighteen How did you get there, my friend? Or should I call you my sister, since from the beginning I discovered we shared anguishes and most certainly a great multitude of passions and dreams? We both were introduced to this world by tortured mothers, who experienced this deep despondency about living Sometimes it lasted, sometimes it would vanish with the dark But their desperation was thoroughly heartfelt, for what can a daughter do when facing a mother desperate with a despair so unalloyed that sometimes even life’s happiness, at its most poignant, couldn’t make them forget it We daughters recognize them effortlessly as the awkward way she holds herself, the way she doesn’t smile That image of our mothers certainly stayed with both of us for life, my friend But what can we do, but go on living? I glance outside, and the wind is speeding like my heart is beating, faster and faster, bum, bum, bum, as I get to know you But suddenly my mind gets back inside Yes, I was also there when you met the nameless man while crossing the river going back to Saigon with a storm blowing inside the water I will never forget how you looked at our first meeting, my friend, wearing a dress of real silk, the famous pair of gold lame high heels and a man’s flatbrimmed hat, a brownishpink fedora with a broad black ribbon I have to agree with you, The crucial ambiguity of the image lies in the hat You were only fifteen and a half, but wearing powder to camouflage the freckles and your mother’s lipstick He was elegant, not a white man but wearing European clothes Again I remember myself, walking hand in hand with a 26yearold man when I was just sixteen Our experiences seem to mimic each other, don’t you think? But while I had two fine sisters, you had two wild brothers that would never do anything.Going back to your nameless young man, as you told me he got out of the limousine and is smoking an English cigarette He looks at you in the man’s fedora and the gold shoes He slowly comes over to you He doesn’t smile to begin with He’s obviously nervous Was it so easy to get into this man’s car, dear friend? I don’t know if I would have had the courage or the temerity That’s a clue that even though sisters, we are inherently different And he presented himself, I was thin and soft and naïve, even though I had just returned from two years in Paris I was still a boy, at 28 I’m sure I would have continued as a boy, unless I met you And you simply got into his car The door shuts A barely discernible distress suddenly seized you, weariness, the light over the river dims, but only slightly Everywhere, too, there’s a very slight dearness, or fog.Further memories of those times we shared during one of our meetings, comes running back to me It is as if I was there with you, peeping into your afternoons At first he looks at you as though he expects you to speak, but you don’t He says he loves you madly, says it very softly Then is silent You don’t answer You could say you don’t love him You say nothing But you did not stop at that, no, you said, I’d rather you didn’t love me But if you do, I’d like you to do as you usually do with women He looked at you in horror, asked, Is that what you want? You said it is He says he knows already you’ll never love him Then you let him say it You were a cool one, weren't you? I look out the window, and now it’s raining like if it was going to drown us, hiding the sun shining at me It's dark inside, for nothing could be harder than remembering those times We who are now almost old ladies, at least well into our mature years On top of my supposed wisdom, I wonder what is it so mysterious about being a woman As a matter of fact, I often asked myself that before meeting my first lover at sixteen Yes, I was some months older than you Not that it would have made any difference if I could envision what and where that would lead me to As you said some women just wait, they dress just for the sake of dressing They look at themselves, dream of romance long days of waiting Some of them go mad Some are ditched You can hear the word hit them, hear the sound of the blow Some kill themselves But that was never us; please tell me so But why could we expect to be different? Did you ever think you might have known, but forgot to tell me? Suddenly inspiration hits me, and I know how we saved ourselves despite our mothers Do you still remember what you said, some time ago? I think you might have forgotten, let me remind you: it’s so simple, it was the writing that saved us! You told me how it all started,I want to write I’ve already told my mother That’s what I want to do–write No answer the first time Then she asks, Write what? I say, Books, novels She says grimly, when you’ve got your math degree you can write if you like, it won’t be anything to do with me then She’s against it, it’s not worthy, it’s not real work, it’s nonsense Later she said, A childish idea.I answered that what I wantedthan anything else in the world was to write, nothing else but that, nothing Jealous She’s jealous No answer, just a quick glance immediately averted, a slight shrug, unforgettable I’ll be the first to leave.I also write, although nobody knows, I am not famous after all But it saved me nonetheless But you tried to hide it from me It’s ok; I forgive you, my friend But I remember so well what you said once, I’ve never written, though I thought I wrote, never loved, though I thought I loved, never done anything but wait outside the closed door.So many years have passed us by, leaving their ignoble scars; but we still reminisce all that went when we were almost children Yes, you told me I can still see his face, and I do remember the name The name you forgot to tell me Indeed, it’s a place of distress, shipwrecked And your mother, that went on living even after you left her Let’s leave your brothers and my sisters for another talk, please Or what you told me happened in Paris Or my years in London and New York Let’s leave the rest for another time, for I know with a certainty that goes deep into my bones, that we will meet again Until then!Notes1 All quotes are in italics;2 I took the liberty to change some pronouns to fit the flow of the writing in some quotes; so sometimes it will read 'you' where it was 'her.' i found myself utterly muted by this book, which is problematic because the book club meets this friday, and they aren't going to be so dazzled by my bruschetta that i can get away with just hiding behind the tiny jewess and drinking their wine so i have to think of something consulting the reading group handbook by rachel w jacobsohn, bought for my final school assignment, i learn how to think about literature:characters and story line: young french girl, older chinese man falling into bed and clinical love without names in indochina character's actions: she has poor unsatisfying home life, he has rich traditional home life they bang everything seems muffled by gauze.reader's emotional response: unmoved if the author's voice is going to be so removed, and the characters aren't going to feel anything particularly deep, why should i be expected to have emotions? it's like watching people fucking with a wall in between them, masturbating at each other resentfully.narrative: fragmentary, past/present conflation, surfaceemotions only short, poetic musings which are occasionally quite lyrical, but never caught at me oh, man, i have zero to say about it i don't know people love this book, but i am not one of them wish me luck.readers, thinkers and drinkers jan 2010.come to my blog! And the time comes, when we’ve to make peace with our past, to let go of moments we cherished dearly, or of those which brought torment endless, the love we lived or the one we denied emphatically, the people we admired foolishly and the ones we’d to abandon, things fall apart and what is left are the crumbled spikes we call memories And time comes, when those fragmented pieces of the past are to be jotted down, the unspoken tale to be spoken after all, to let out the stories inside us, not to seek a sympathetic heart or to moan over our losses, we say our hearts just for the sake of saying, to breathe freely, to be at peace Here is the tale told in most apathetic fashion, touching the innermost chords of the flesh in us which beats with the same rhythm as of the indifferent narrator, after all we’ve all been the lovers and we’ve loved “A love like this, so strong, it never happens again in a lifetime…never.”There’s nothing new in the tale, if you’re looking for a love story you’re gravely mistaken There’s no such love nor the story The kind of love that starts with dewy glances and perturbs hearts, the kind of love with the happy ending of togetherness, or the kind of love that longs for the beloved in dark nights with juices flowing down the loins, marguerite pens down events from her childhood in most detached of voices, hers is not the lush style with poetic diction, there’s a marked dispassion in the tone and daunting flair in descriptions of her Indochina which is Vietnam today, and of her Chinese lover, a man of twentyseven besotted by the skinny French girl of fifteen who hides her povertystricken face under a Manish hat, who wears clothes that were in fashion a dozen years ago, who has a body of a child and no flesh to attract men but a face of a half goddess and half prostitute, veiled behind his limousine glass, the lover falls for her in a fair morning in his way to cholon, he can never marry her ,he tells the child every time he makes love to her, this stripped naked reality saddens the most erotic of scenes too.Like a father he tends to her needs, like a lover he worships her passionately, as for her, she’s found a haven in him, a home away from home, from those desperately poor people that are her family, the child loves his skin as he loves her untainted soul, they never promise nothing, they weave no future, as the lovers know, they have none Sometimes we just want to lie next to someone and sleep, knowing our hearts are safe, the surety of sharing the same sky appeases much, as duras penned it down in her 70s, her heart must’ve been swelled with the thought of her lover, the faded face, the gone fragrance, the screaming silence, of her warravaged Saigon:I see the war as like him, spreading everywhere, breaking in everywhere, stealing, imprisoning, always there, merged and mingled with everything, present in the body, in the mind, awake and asleep, all the time, a prey to the intoxicating passion of occupying that delightful territory, a child's body, the bodies of those less strong, of conquered peoples Because evil is there, at the gates, against the skin.He will always feel the same for her, he said.. Who is “L’amant”(*)? The characters in this story are nameless A puzzle of personal pronouns draws an anonymous canvas that perspires with alienation and the dense humidity of a foreign land, that mourns the loss of youth and innocence, that invokes the image of photographs never taken, the sound of words never uttered and the mirage of a future that never existed Only the condensed ardour that clouds up the windows of a small hotel room, where two slippery bodies abandon themselves to contorting passion, defies reality and the passage of time But who is “The Lover”?Is “The Lover” the fifteenyearsold tomboy standing in front to the ferry hiding her prematurely wrinkled face under the shadow of a man’s fedora hat? She never expected to fall in love with him She was only worn out with desire And her dysfunctional family of European colonizers needed the money.Is “The Lover” the wealthy Chinese man of twentyseven years of age from Cholen who adores the girl from the distance, concealed behind the tainted windows of his father’s black limousine? He undresses her with trembling fingers and weeps in the exile of his illegitimate love He is ashamed of his weakness She kisses his fragility and ruins the rest of his life.At first I thought “The Lover” was she Then I realized it was he.And finally I understood it was much .“The Lover” is a movable portrait of a first person narrator who is visiting a succession of her younger selves Memories are her brushstrokes and lifeconsuming longing the color in which she paints her pictorial story The awakening of first love and the discovery of erotic pleasure arrive hand in hand with the heartbreak of a certain separation, the sentence to life imprisonment by familial duty and the ruthlessness of intransigent tradition The cultural distance between the local people and the colonizers in French Indochina become the backdrop of a love story that is condemned by history before it even started and the detached irony that drips from the narrator’s voice can’t disguise the desolation that is eating her alive underneath a carefully studied, impassive poise.“The Lover” is a cascade of musical notes delivered in fluid movements, a whirlwind of words repeated like a mantra in breathless cadence and staccatto punctuation “The Lover” isthan a semi autobiographical memoir and less than an interior monologue It is the rawness of impressionistic paragraphs capturing in Polaroid snapshots the obsession of a crazed mother, the chauvinistic abuse of an elder brother and the alternating urgency and resigned languidness that leaves a permanent scar on the features of a young woman.Yes The tale has been told countless times before But never like this.Never the vessel set sail in the Mekong River amidst deafening heat, chirping jungles and melting sky annihilatating all color.Never the salty tears drowned the sob in torrents of silence and immobility while Chopin’s notes tinted the breath of the wind onboard.Never the throbbing heartbreak was replaced by incandescent prose that palpitated to the rhythm of the distant voice of China.Never the fate of two lovers who never spoke to each other, would be sealed with only two words.(*) I read Marguerite Duras’ novella in Catalan translated from the French by Marta Pessarrodona. My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.An autobiographical story about an affair between a young French girl and a Chinese man, set near Saigon, The Lover wavers between repression and indulgence The tone is detached, the description spare, the narrative fragmented; in spite of the the cool aloofness of Duras's prose, though, the novel is incredibly sensual Each image glints and radiates a warmth much at odds with the narrator's emotional reticence The unnamed French girl's tendency to return to describing a few central images from her past, capturing them from different angles, lends the photographic text a cyclical and erotic quality In the end, though, the story is rather disturbing: the girl is exploited by her lover, and her family regularly abuses her The Lover isof a harrowing survival narrative than a romance, and Duras's story of her adolescence is well worth reading. 252 ‎L'Amant‬ = The Lover (The Lover #1), Marguerite DurasThe Lover is an autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, published in 1984 It has been translated to 43 languages and was awarded the 1984 Prix Goncourt It was adapted to film in 1992 as The Lover Set against the backdrop of French colonial Vietnam, The Lover reveals the intimacies and intricacies of a clandestine romance between a pubescent girl from a financially strapped French family and an older, wealthy Chinese man In 1929, a 15yearold nameless girl is traveling by ferry across the Mekong Delta, returning from a holiday at her family home in the town of Sa Đéc, to her boarding school in Saigon She attracts the attention of a 27yearold son of a Chinese business magnate, a young man of wealth and heir to a fortune He strikes up a conversation with the girl; she accepts a ride back to town in his chauffeured limousine.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه آگوست سال 1998 میلادیعنوان: عاشق؛ نویسنده: مارگاریت دوراس؛ مترجم: قاسم روبین؛ تهران، انتشارات نیلوفر، 1376؛ در 116 ص؛ شابک: 9644480511؛ چاپ سوم 1377؛ چهارم 1378؛ پنجم 1380؛ ششم 1384؛ هفتم 1388؛ هشتم 1391؛ موضوع: ادبیات فرانسه سده 20 معنوان: عاشق؛ نویسنده: مارگاریت دوراس؛ مترجم: کافیه جوانرویی، کرج، انتشارات مانگ، 1393؛ در 90 ص؛ شابک: 9786009452019؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسنئگان فرانسه سده 20 میادی ست یادگار، از اندوه و از سر بگذشته ها: فراز و فرود خواسته های یک زن، همان بانوی نگارنده؛ این کتاب به نوعی خود زندگی‌نامه ی «مارگریت دوراس» است، که در یک برش زمانی، از دوره‌ ی نوجوانی‌ اش، به روایت مکان، زمان، و آدم‌های اطرافش می‌پردازد در مستعمره‌ ی «هندوچین»، یک مرد چینی پولدار، عاشق دختر پانزده ساله‌ ای می‌شود، که با کرجی در حین گذر از رودخانه است راوی گاه دخترک، گاهی دانای کل، و زمانی پیرزنی ست که یادمانهای جوانی‌ خویش را بازگو می‌کند، و در حین روایتْ، خوانشگر را با شخصیت‌های دوروبرِ دخترک، و ویژگیهای اجتماعی، و روانشناسی آنان، آشنا می‌سازد دخترک گاه عاشق خود را دوست میدارد؛ و گاهی از او بیزار است همین حس پارادوکسیکال را، او نسبت به مادر خود هم دارد، اما در مورد برادرانش، تصمیم خود را گرفته؛ از برادر ارشد بیزار است، و برادر کوجک را دوست میدارد، و علت آن، مرگ زود هنگام برادر کوچک‌تر، و شباهت برادر بزرگ‌تر به خود هموست در نهایت پدر معشوق، مانع ازدواج او، و پسرش می‌شود؛ و علی‌رغم میل پسر، زنی چینی، برایش اختیار می‌کند؛ اما آن‌چه موجب فروش جهانی موفق کتاب، تحت عنوان: «رمان نو» شد، ماجرای آن نیست، بلکه عدم التزام «دوراس»، به رعایت کلیشه‌ های رایج رمان‌نویسی، یا خاطره‌ نگاری محض، و در نتیجه نگارش آزادانه، و بی‌قید و بند ایشانست دیدگاه روان‌کاوانه، و تصویرپردازی «دوراس»، گرچه در جاهائی بی‌ ربط می‌نماید، اما حاکی از هوش نویسنده، برای جلب و انگیزش خوانشگر عام است؛ تا حدی که «عاشق»، به عنوان نمونه‌ ای از ادبیات روان‌شناسی، معرفی می‌شود یادمانهای تراژیک نویسنده، که به صورت یک مجموعه، صیقل‌ شده، و آماده‌ ی ارائه است، باعث می‌شود که زمان روایت به صورت پاندولی، در حال رفت و بازگشت، در حال، و گذشته باشد زبان سیال و عریان دوراس، به پختگی لازم رسیده؛ تا از عشق، لذت، بدنامی، گناه و تنفر، هرچند با ابهام و ایجاز، اما به سادگی سخن بگوید، و به درد زیستن، اعتراف کند ا شربیانی An international bestseller with than one million copies in print, The Lover has been acclaimed by critics all over the world Set in the prewar Indochina of Marguerite Duras's childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover in the waning days of France's colonial empireThis edition includes an introduction by Maxine Hong Kingston that looks back at Duras's world from an intriguing new perspectivethat of a visitor to Vietnam today A world away from the intelligence insulting and glorified trash of E L James, Marguerite Duras has written a sparse, minimal and painfully sad erotic love story that never gets drawn into the realms of romantic fantasy.And to deeply appreciate 'The Lover', it needs to be looked at from the perspective of Duras herself Pen was put to paper when she was 70, it's predominantly all about looking back on memories past, and I say it's a painful read, painful in respects to nostalgia, as nostalgia forms the basis for the story that has origins from her actual youth while living in French Indochina, age fifteen she fell in love with a rich Chinese man Duras takes this premise and places a white teenage girl in South Vietnam, into the arms of a wealthy older man who catches her eye while been driven in a limousine But this is a forbidden love that was always doomed, trying to keep secret from her mother and two brothers she would regularly meet with her lover for moments of passionate bliss.Duras stays away from any attention seeking sexual content, and never covers ground of what's right or wrong, just tells the simple tale of innocence lost The narrative at times appears broken, and there is little in the way of dialogue, but his only helps to fortify the reading experience of it feeling like a distant dream.After being Oscar nominated for her screenplay on the Alain Resnais film classic 'Hiroshima mon amour', Duras would rightly win Frances most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, and she will always remains a significant French writer. “Very early in my life it was too late.”and“Death came before the end of his story When he was still alive it had already happened.”The first, very striking quote, is on the opening page Like the second quote, it teases about horrors not yet explained that may never be Marguerite Duras wrote this autobiographical novella over a few months around her 70th birthday The narrative is dreamy and disjointed Her family is damaged and disjointed She slips between first and third persons, tenses, and sheets The main characters are nameless, and pronouns sometimes ambiguous I collected the shiny tesserae, gradually constructing patches of story Some fit tightly, others less so, There’s an erotic diversion to describe the innocently irresistible body of a schoolmate, Hélène Lagonelle You could almost read the snippets in any order (like JG Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, which I reviewed HERE).Image: Scene on the ferry, from the 1992 film, which I’ve not seen (Source.)The pages exude the heat and humidity of French Indochina (now Vietnam) in 1929 Soporific fever drives lust and hormones Desperation changes standards Taboos are breached The writing is beautiful, but there are constant allusions to fear, madness, and murder A powerful dissonance The crux of the story is a relationship she had as a 15year old with a 27year old “man from Cholon” after an encounter on a ferry She is white (French) but from an impoverished, dysfunctional, fatherless family He is rich, but Chinese Race, class, and wealth should keep them apart And age.I was captivated by the mysterious undercurrents of a broken family, and the lifelong ripples from a chance encounter on a mundane river crossing A metaphor for the whole story A child becomes an adult in an instant Red Flags“He breathes her in, the child… It’s not like other bodies, it’s not finished… It launches itself wholly into pleasure as if it were grown up… I became his child.”It seems unfair to compare this very personal piece to Lolita (see my review HERE), but I think one must Although Duras' story takes place long before Nabokov's, she wrote it long after, and must have known of it Like Lolita, the strange beauty of Duras' language lures one into a distasteful story of an abused child.This teenager is also a vulnerable, immature, tomboy albeit not as knowing as Lolita is portrayed But we only see Lolita through Humbert’s deluded selfjustifying eyes, whereas in The Lover, the author is describing herself, making peace with her past Theshocking aspect here, is that her mother and older brothers are fully aware of what’s going on They permit, enable, and defend it “How can innocence be disgraced?” So asks her mother, when her daughter’s relationship is challenged.Everyone (the girl, the man from Cholon, her family) acknowledges that she doesn’t and won’t ever love him, though he claims to love her Her family enjoy lavish meals and financial benefits, though won’t even talk to the man himself This is child prostitution! Image: Woman waving a red flag (Source.)In 18 months, they don’t talk about themselves, let alone their future She likes the idea of his having other women, which raises questions about her own selfesteem.The man is a victim of sorts, ruled by fear, especially of his father, and looked down on by colonials because of his skin But he is an adult, wanting to avoid, or at least delay, a suitable marriage, so that he can prolong “Love in its first violence”!Ambiguous MoralityDuras’ interpretation of the relationship is cloudy and contradictory: • When writing of her most vulnerable times, she sometimes switches to third person, as if distancing her adult self from her younger self • She makes the point that the inequality of age and wealth were counterbalanced by inequality of race • She writes (with hindsight) that she immediately realised her power over him, and that the choice was hers alone.• But she also writes that she’s “where she has to be, placed here”, which sounds like less of a choice.• Most unsettlingly, of losing her virginity to this man, she says in the third person: “She doesn’t feel anything in particular, no hate, no repugnance either, so probably it’s already desire.”Ambiguous Truth“The story of my life does not exist.”Duras provokes the reader on this point Photos are a small, recurring, and significant trope In particular, she muses on a nonexistent one: a photo of herself, aged 15 “that might have been taken”, but wasn’t In it, her clothes were chosen for “crucial ambiguity” The reader wonders what would (not) have happened if she’d caught a different ferry that day If perhaps she actually did?However, long before she wrote this, Duras wrote another, semiautobiographical novel, The Sea Wall, in 1950 It presents a similar picture, but notably different in other ways See Jim's excellent review here.It would be easier to think this story is fiction, but evidently the general narrative is true Tragedy.Quotes• “The light of the sun blurred and annihilated all colour” and at night “the light fell from the sky in cataracts of pure transparency, in torrents of silence and immobility.”• “It’s not that you have to achieve anything, it’s that you have to get away from where you are.”• “When I was a child my mother’s unhappiness took the place of dreams.”• “Their disgrace is a matter of course Both are doomed to discredit because of the kind of body they have, caressed by lovers, kissed by their lips, consigned to the infamy of a pleasure unto death… the mysterious death of lovers without love.”ConclusionThis is a brilliant piece of writing, but not at all what I expected There are farmentions of fear, madness, and death than of love or even passion It isdisturbing or should be than expected I have friends, and have read of others, who’ve had underage agegap relationships like this and sworn they were positive milestones One couple are still together after 35 years What sets this apart for me, is the family’s acceptance of the financial aspect The writing is 5*, the subject is awful Averaging to 3*.Given the very fragmentary, nonchronological telling, and the fact it’s barely 100 pages, it’s best read in one or two sittings. DesireThe first time ever I saw your face was on the ferry.I had my head buried in a copy of the South China Morning Post My father had said, if I read it every day, I would learn about the world around us, and his boy would become a man Only then would I be ready to take over the family business after him.He was right, in his way I was thin and soft and naïve, even though I had just returned from two years in Paris I was still a boy, at 28 I’m sure I would have continued as a boy, unless I had met you.I had slept with many girls in Paris, and I bedded plentyafter you, before I married my wife, a virgin until our wedding night But I didn't sleep with any of these girls out of love or even desire I fucked them because I could They came to me eager to be fucked, and we all knew the reason, my family’s wealth and increasing prominence in Saigon They all came to me, because they wanted something that my father had.My father was not an egotistical man He did not display pride or shame He did everything out of duty, even make money, buy property, run a department store and build wealth But when it came to the girls I slept with (not you), and he always found out about them, he took some delight in my sexual activity No matter how attractive each one was, he knew that by sleeping with them, I was actually disqualifying them from the race to be my wife and share his wealth Everyone I slept with narrowed it down to the one I would eventually marry.I looked up from the Post, some article on inflation, and I saw you taking a seat opposite me I gazed at you longer than I should have.Everything about you was wrong You were Caucasian, white, 15 ½ years old, slim, you were wearing a flowing dress that alternately swayed in the breeze or clung to your body, outlining and highlighting your petite breasts And you were wearing a man’s fedora and gold shoes.Once I took all of this in, I tried to resume reading the Post I was looking down at the page, but I couldn’t distinguish a single word, I was thinking of you and I was shaking Like a boy.Later the same week, we happened to be on the same ferry again I didn’t see you on board, but when my father’s driver (until recently, when he retired, my driver) opened the door to the limousine, I noticed that you were standing near the waterline, apparently deciding what you would do next.I went up to you, determined to offer you a ride in my car, I mean my father’s car You were apprehensive at first, but I reassured you of my good faith, and you decided to accept It helped that I was shaking the whole way through our brief discussion.While we were talking, we stood side on, so that my driver could see both of us, the sides of our faces and the hints of nervous smiles Something must have touched him, unless he did it out of a sense of duty to my father, for he took a photo of us that day.He gave it to me when he retired 10 years ago I have carried it with me, in my wallet, every day since then Until today, I haven’t pulled it out and looked at it again I didn’t need to That moment, in my eyes, has been engraved in my mind for fifty years The only difference is that the image confirms that I was there, that it wasn’t all in my imagination, you can see both of us The image is true, and so now is my memory Only I’m not sure whether I ever wanted to be reminded It’s not that the photo reminds me of a time when I was a boy After all, it was you who made me a man, not reading the Post.Like my father before me, I am a man of duty I have faithfully taken care of my wife, my family, my family’s business Everything has grown under my watchful and caring eye I have done the right thing, and I will die a contented man, if contentment is what I am looking for.No, what that photo and that moment remind me of is my capacity for desire It is something I eliminated from my field of vision after we parted company, at my parents’ insistence, and you returned to Paris, I thought, with your mother.I already knew the rudimentary mechanics of sex when we stood before each other, a skinny Chinese boy and a skinny French girl, in my bedroom for the first time As I had done before, I was shaking Even my tentative erection looked as if it might shake off and fall to the floor It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny then.Until I met you, I had been lonely I was even lonelier after I had met you, because of the obsessive love I had for you.You said, “I’d rather you didn’t love me, but if you do, I’d like you to do as you usually do with women.”I asked, “Is that what you want?”You nodded Still I knew that you would never love me, that you could never love me.I said, “You’ve come here with me as you might have gone anywhere with anyone.”You replied, “I can’t say, so far I’ve never gone into a bedroom with anyone.”You begged me, again, to do what I usually did with the women I brought to my room.I did my best to comply Although you were a virgin, I made love to you the way you directed me to It was different to how I normally did it, well there was one difference, I wept while we made love.The driver soon learned about you, and so did my father He could tell I felt differently about you, that I wasn’t disqualifying you, that I wanted to marry this white girl, even though you would never love me in return.He made his position very clear.“I will not let my son marry this little white whore from Sadec.”I tried to obliterate his attitude from my thinking But it must have affected me subliminally In bed, as we fuckedandpassionately, I would call out, “My whore, my slut, you are my only love.” And you and I and my cum and your juices and our sweat would be swept up in a torrent of desire.For a long time, it seemed as if that torrent would never stop I didn’t know where the waters sprang from, but I definitely didn’t know where they were heading.My father did, and so he built a dam that would contain the flow, and one day the torrent just stopped.Loving you had made me a man, he knew that, as I did, and although we disagreed wildly, I was reconciled to my future in the family business.As my father loosened his grip on the reins and handed them over to me, I expanded to two and then eventually five department stores, and then years later with such a solid foundation, I started investing in shopping centres in Australia, until my family became the largest private holder of retail real estate in the country.Like my father, I am not an egotistical man or a proud one I do this because of duty But there was a moment when I contented myself with a smile I had just signed a contract to purchase a centre in Australia for A$30 million I signed a cheque for a A$3M deposit and gave it to the Vendor’s lawyer A youngish fellow, he decided to phone my banker and ask whether I had sufficient funds in my account to clear the cheque The banker asked what the total sale price was The lawyer answered, and my banker laughed “There are enough funds in this account to pay the entire sale price in cash.”The lawyer turned to me, squeamishly, and declared that we had a deal I said, “I was under the impression we had a deal before you phoned my bank.”I enquired after that lawyer once It turned out he had married one of my property managers and was now running a coffee shop, ironically in one of my centres.I have two daughters They run our portfolio, and they do aprofessional job of it than either I or my father ever did.Perhaps, my father was better at taking risks than they are, but to be honest they are pretty good at it I am proud of them, and he would be too They have married well, and have given me four beautiful grandchildren.As I said, I have carried our photo in my wallet for many years, ever since I learned of its existence.Any other man in my position would possibly say that they had everything that they had ever desired.For me, that is true, except in one sense that I have tried to overlook for fifty years.I once desired you, that skinny white French girl in the fedora I desired you with an intensity that I cannot find words to describe.I have tried to rationalise and deny that desire I’ve tried to convince myself that I only ever desired you once And that is actually the truth I did only desire you once, but that one occasion has lasted fifty years.Now that I am about to die, or think I am, and my family will soon gather around me to say their farewells, I must take a match to this photo and set it alight, like you once set me alight, and perhaps, I will never know, perhaps I also set you alight, if not for as long.My favourite nurse just brought me an ashtray and a cigarette lighter It took me two or three attempts to burn this image It didn’t seem to want to go.But now it is finished and there are only ashes in the tray, and my failing memory, and when I die and it too goes, there will be nothing left of our desire Mural at the Pawpaw Cafe attached to the Brisbane Restaurant Green Papaya

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About the Author: Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Donnadieu, better known as Marguerite Duras (pronounced [maʀgəʁit dyˈʁas] in French) (April 4, 1914 – March 3, 1996) was a French writer and film director.She was born at Gia Dinh, near Saigon, French Indochina (now Vietnam), after her parents responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging people to work in the colony.Marguerite's father fell ill soon after their arrival,