The Easy Life

Bloomsbury. Dec. 2022. 208p. tr. from French by Olivia Bae & Emma Ramadan. ISBN 9781635578515. pap. $18. F
Published in 1944 and now translated into English for the first time, this second novel from the late Prix Goncourt–winning French author Duras (The Lover) recounts the difficult life of Francine Veyrenattes. The novel begins with Francine; her brother, Nicolas; and their uncle Jerome walking back to the family farm. Upon learning from Francine that Jerome was having an affair with Nicolas’s wife, the betrayed husband severely beats his uncle. The next few days are spent with the family keeping vigil while Jerome dies. On the surface, the beating was precipitated by adultery but actually was the result of Jerome’s loss of the family’s money years earlier, thus forcing them into a life of meaningless toil on the isolated farm. Francine, impoverished at the age of 25, finds that she cannot go to university, has no marriage prospects, and is destined to live a life of boredom and drudgery. Jerome’s death becomes the catalyst for other tragedies, which finally compels Francine to escape her unrelenting grief by traveling to a seaside resort.
VERDICT While this early work is less taut than her best novels, Duras plumbs the harshness of Francine’s life and the catastrophic effect that Francine’s detachment has on those around her.
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