It is an event, and a very beautiful novel, but not what one might expect or be ... She was twenty-six when she wrote it, and seventy when she wrote The Lover . By then she was a master. In this first novel, she is a young woman sorting things out ... an old-fashioned novel with fairly conventional language, which the blunt Marguerite Duras herself called very bad. It’s not bad, it’s just not what we think of when we think of Marguerite Duras ... These are the roots of all to come. Seeds are planted in this strange soil, of writing, of solitude. An appreciation of solitude. The cultivation of alone time. Her themes seem to remain the same: longing, staring out the window, horizons, love, loss, not wanting to be observed, feeling judged, but also judging. The life of the mind gives her some power over her melancholia ... Early Duras is almost nineteenth-century in her description of the countryside, the furniture, the ways in which we fall from grace. But there is a happy ending (of sorts). Before the economy of style came the excess, an excess born of romanticism.
... reads like a dress rehearsal for The Lover, minus the temporal fluidity and linguistic skill ... not a particularly enjoyable read. Its interest is as a window into Duras's process. Two enlightening afterwords enhance this volume — the first by translator Askett and the second by Duras's biographer Jean Vallier. Duras comes forward as an assertive young woman, self-confident in her writing ... Askett notes that problems of lucidity and cohesiveness present challenges for reader and translator. Nevertheless, the English language version of The Impudent Ones is significant. Whether or not it is great literature, the book offers a roadmap for what was to come.
Most notable is the psychological intensity of the central figure, mercilessly observant Maud, who boldly refuses to comply with familial or social expectations, and Duras’ ravishingly descriptive passages contrasting the stifling monotony of human struggles versus the glory and freedom of nature. With affairs, suicide, rivalry, gossip, desolation, betrayal, and dysfunction, rendered with touches of Flaubert, the Brontës, and Woolf, and illuminated via invaluable essays by translator Haskett and Duras’ biographer, Jean Vallier, this flawed yet intriguing novel is revealed to be the proving ground on which Duras taught herself how to cast her provocative spell.