Summer Rain

This characteristically brief novel by French writer Marguerite Duras revolves around twelve-year-old Ernesto, the oldest of seven children, of a poverty-stricken immigrant family living in a suburban slum of Paris. The plot, what there is of it, turns on this promising boy, who, although reared in the poorest of environments and with little formal education, is discovered to be a genius. As his teacher pushes for him to advance his education, his foreign-born parents and his siblings dread his inevitable departure.

Around this simple premise, Duras weaves a dense, sometimes confusing, narrative laden with symbolism and biblical references—a narrative that presents details to the reader like so many pieces of a puzzle, which must be assembled and interpreted. As in other examples of her work, Duras relies predominantly on dialogue to develop the characters. Her narrative, which at times resembles poetry, dwells on the broader themes of isolation, alienation, growing up, the effect of the past on the present, and the inevitability of change.

Not a writer who would at first glance seem to be readily accessible to the general reader, Duras has nevertheless maintained a certain commercial success, which reached its zenith with the publication of her prizewinning novel THE LOVER. In SUMMER RAIN—translated into English by Barbara Bray, winner of the PEN Translation Prize for her work on THE LOVER— Duras continues to create impressions rather than tell a story; she remains deliberately cryptic and vague, yet she can send shock waves of emotion and pain that continue to throb long after a simple story line will have been forgotten.