The Easy Life is itself too short, too seeded with early indicators of its complicated author’s talent, to risk boredom. It crams in three dramatic deaths ... The translation, by Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes, flows smoothly ... Duras, though her prose is spare and concentrated, is practically an avatar of French existential difficulty ... This is a minor work, in a minor key, that might be of interest only to Duras completists but for its overlaps with other recent chronicles of young womanhood ... Love, worry, numbness, confusion and urgency about when and how 'real' life begins.
Ably translated ... Brutal and bleak ... Duras sustains Francine’s lyrical and often abstract musings without concern for narrative movement or, indeed, particular clarity ... These reflections...will either thrill or infuriate, depending on the reader ... Her prose is at times amazingly good and at others laughably terrible, but it is always unflinching in its contemplation of life’s great intensities.
What is remarkable about Marguerite Duras’s The Easy Life is that not only does it feature a heroine who is consistently out of touch with—and even actively in denial of—what she wants, but Duras has also managed to translate that heroine’s struggle into a compelling narrative, all while maintaining the depth of the feminine interiority contained in her prose ... The drama here is riveting in its subtlety. Most of the events unfold through covert glances and actions which are intended to go unnoticed but which we witness by way of Francine’s captive and probing attention ... The information Francine gathers by way of her careful, sensory attunement to the lives of those around her is the seed of everyone’s eventual undoing, including her own ... The part of me that doesn’t care about plot wants to say that these details in Duras’s writing are enough, and yet she gives us much more. Francine’s witnessing is not only pleasurable in itself, it is also the catalyst for the whole drama that unfolds. The quality of her subtle listening, the pain and longing that reverberate beneath it, produce a tremendous and palpable force that echoes throughout the text. Though we do not get to hold Duras’s words in our bodies and mouths in the original French, we are nevertheless very lucky that we get to read them in English for the first time.
All about aftermath ... The plot of The Easy Life rac[es] like a tongue of fire that has found a fuse—there’s nothing left to do but follow where it burns ... Duras...is the queen of blind spots so gaping that I’m tempted to call them doors to oblivion. Her heroines possess a kind of indifference, but it’s inevitability in disguise ... There’s a hinge in the center of this book when an even more shocking event divides beginning from aftermath ... In this excellent new translation, you can discover her as the long aftermath was just beginning, when her voice was a line of ash in the grass, and a hungry, traveling flame.
A welcome discovery and a chance to remember her work generally ... A hot, intense book ... The first part of the book ends with a kick, and the second replaces the external frenzy with Francine’s internal wrangling as she undergoes an existential crisis ... Not just a valuable insight into the development of a great writer, but an intense experience in its own right.
... the quintessential Duras tone is already here – stripped-down staccato sentences, remorseless introspection ... There is urgency and precision to the writing; Nicolas, Tiène, Luce and Francine herself are intriguing and credible characters. The style may be clipped, but the setting and lifestyle are slipped into the action ... This mannered style of deliberate abstraction can seem in one paragraph merely pretentious, and then serve up a line that is illuminating and accurate ... The ending is unexpected, and feels arbitrary ... But Duras was only 30 when this novel was published. This is the writing of her youth, experimental in every sense, a precursor indeed of the sparse later style for which she was distinguished, but perhaps without its precision. And there is a significant cumulative effect. The writing creates an effective climate for the story; it has energy and self-sufficiency that nicely convey the claustrophobia and sexual tension of the group and the place. Francine can irritate, but she is also a persuasive narrator. Eight decades on, Duras’s nascent talent is on display here.
The narrator of any story is necessarily a stranger, observing things (or nothings) from the outside. But a narrator needs to be in the story as well, or at least alive in their own world. Francine’s state of aliveness tests the literary boundaries of this disengagement. She is limp and mute ... Classic Duras: the quiet pitilessness ... It is this instability — the intersection of irrepressible desire with intense economic and social constraints, the image of oneself 'at once fraternal and full of hatred,' the urge to both materialize and to 'disappear, abduct myself,' a Francine-shaped dress in her wake — that makes Duras’s fiction burn with life.
The plot’s arc is modest but told with lyrical sadness, echoing the author’s own personal grief ... Duras constructs her text with a unique combination of structural asperity and lush style. Her sentences are carved with care, sticks stacked up one atop the other, building to heady, rich paragraphs so that one expects a conflagration. Instead, this drama smolders rather than burns, and even dramatic events are rendered with Francine’s contemplative lassitude. Her descriptions of place—the pastoral beauty of the landscape, the animals, and, later, the sea—suffuse the work and make it glow. Much happens but it is Francine’s interiority where this sensual novel lives and breathes ... Gorgeous writing abounds ... Despite the challenges inherent in her circumscribed existence, Francine observes the exquisite beauty around her and generously shares her vision so that our senses are heightened, and we view the world with fresh eyes, with more nuance and perception. While this woman’s life appears simple, Duras coaxes the reader into the complexity of Francine’s mind and engulfs us in her thoughts, conflicts, and passions.
A dark and ruminative novel that displays Duras's talent for creating a memorable narrator and then sustaining considerable tension over the course of what amounts to an extended internal monologue ... The Easy Life is anything but easy; it's a compelling portrait of a mind in turmoil and of the relentless, unforgiving demands of a true moral reckoning.
Intense ... Though some of the narration can feel a bit redundant, Duras drops more than enough sharp revelations to carry the reader along. Though it’s not quite at the level of her masterworks, it offers glimpses of the heights to come.