Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Reading...

I forgot to mention that I finished Marguerite Duras'The Sailor from Gibraltar. The style of this book from really different from anything I have been reading lately (ever?), she leaves so much open to interpretation that I didn't always know if I was on the right track. It is not unusual for an author to leave the ending open or obscure, but that feeling was apparent at so many times within the work also. It wasn't necessarily bad, just not something I am accustomed to.

The protagonist is portrayed immediately in the book as an unlikable person and anyone who has read some of my other "reviews" (more like thoughts than reviews) will know that I struggle when the main character is unlikable, or if we are positioned against them. So the narrator and key protagonist is a dissatisfied French Colonial Ministry clerk who copies birth and death certificates, and after eight years he seems to have some sort of unspectacular break down. He doesn't rage or cry or even really drink, he is on holidays with his girlfriend and he (without giving too much away) decides to leave her and travel alone and not return to the Ministry where they both work. There are tears and sunburn and then he starts to become a little more likable, but only a little. He remains interesting, even if he is disaffected and bored, because his actions are not examined in depth. He has made the break and then he kind of floats into what happens next. And even though what happens borders on magical realism (it's not, but the likelihood of what happens to him happening to anyone is close to my chances of space travel), but then again, strange things happen everyday and this is a strange book.

It sounds like I didn't enjoy it, I did actually enjoy Duras' style and even the far fetched plot and began to like, and wish the best for, the preoccupied narrator - even if he says some of the stupidest things ever, like when he explains how he got into a relationship with his girlfriend in the first place (you have to read it to find that out!)- but he is still very unlikable. Does that matter? Maybe not, it didn't make me put it down and forget about it, so something was working.

The book was published in 1952 and the portrayal of women in the book I am sure must be a PhD thesis somewhere, or at least should be one. I enjoyed the travel element and the writing about ships and ports and criminals - but that again was far fetched and unresolved. Overall, it was worthwhile reading, and I would like to read some more of Marguerite Duras' work, but I won't read it again.

PS. This book was made into a film in 1967, but I haven't seen it, might be worth tracking down (?).

2 comments:

  1. Our reading is moving in similar circles at the moment. I adore Duras, though this one is still on the to-be-read list. She is such a clever writer. For me the stories unfold over two or three readings; I've never grasped one fully from a single read. Once I know the plot I can settle down and spot her tricks. My favourite is possibly Moderato Cantabile.

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  2. I'll have to look for 'Moderato Cantabile' too, as I really loved this book and would like to read more of Duras' work. The beginning of the relationship aside, I loved this book and I was really drawn into the characters and the plot lines. I was quite happy to fill in the gaps and believe in the realities and I think I would read it again.

    xx

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