The Ravishing of Lol Stein

by Marguerite Duras

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Critical Context

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In its lack of violence or crime, the plot of The Ravishing of Lol Stein differs from the plots of other Duras novels. The novel is typical, however, in its focus on love and memory. As noted above, several of Duras’ other works, including the novel The Vice-Consul and the play India Song: Texte-theatre-film (1973; English translation, 1976), develop in more detail some of the characters from The Ravishing of Lol Stein, particularly Ann-Marie Stretter and what happened after she went to Calcutta with Michael Richardson. These recurring characters are not limited to the time frame of a single book but exist in time, subject to change.

In addition to her concern with the themes of memory and love, Duras shares the interest of other writers of the New Novel in breaking down the boundaries of the traditional novel, especially the requirements for characters with a stable, fixed identity; plots with a clearly delineated chronology; and a consistent point of view, often embodied in an omniscient, godlike narrator. At the same time, Duras infuses her novels with a strongly felt passion and a frequently erotic tension. In The Ravishing of Lol Stein, the narrator’s quest for understanding the truth of Lol’s history finds no single satisfactory explanation, paralleling his obsessive attraction to her and her obsession with dominating the past, which fails to lead to any final erotic release. Duras’ novels, like their characters, are impelled onward in time, and memory, with all of its gaps and misreadings of the past, is ever seeking to impose a shape on that flow. In its unrelenting analysis of memory and passion and in its honesty and rigor of form, the work of Marguerite Duras constitutes a unique and significant achievement in twentieth century fiction.

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