The Easy Life is the story of Francine Veyrenattes, a twenty-five-year-old woman who already feels like life is passing her by. After witnessing a series of tragedies on her family farm, she alternates between intense grief and staggering boredom as she discovers a curious detachment in herself, an inability to navigate the world as others do. Hoping to be cleansed of whatever ails her, she travels to the coast to visit the sea. But there she finds herself unraveling, uncertain of what is inside her. Lying in the sun with her toes in the sand by day while psychologically dissolving in her hotel room by night, she soon reaches the peak of her inner crisis and must grapple with whether and how she can take hold of her own existence.
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.