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The Sea Wall by Marguerite Duras
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The Sea Wall (1950)

by Marguerite Duras

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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374528,918 (3.96)2 / 36

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1950s (80)
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French (2)  English (2)  Spanish (1)  All (5)
Showing 2 of 2
Un barrage contre le Pacifique (English: The Sea Wall) is essential reading for readers interested in Marguerite Duras. It is an autobiographical novel about the author's youth in French Indo-China, particularly that part of Cambodia, now part of Vietnam. The author appears in the novel as Suzanne, who lives on a concession with her Mother and older brother Joseph.

From the earliest parts of the novel, the theme of decay dominates the story. Everything around the family is old, or broken or flawed. The books opens with Joseph's purchase of an old horse. The animal is so old and weak that it dies in a matter of days. This episode is followed by episodes about the family's ancient car, and, most importantly, the concession which Mother had leased, which turned out to be the worst plot of land in the district, as it is inundated most of the year. Only the bungalow, where they live remains dry. Mother was assigned to this useless plot of land by corrupt officials.

The economic decay surrounding the family lowers their status, and makes them vulnerable. The son of a wealthy Chinese merchant, Mr Jo, makes use of this weakness by approaching the family, and showing his interest in the young Suzanne. He gives her expensive presents, but wants something in return:

"Demain vous aurez votre phonographe, dit M. Jo. Dès demain. Un magnifique VOIX DE SON MAÎTRE. Ma petite Suzanne chérie, ouvrez une seconde et vous aurez votre phono."

The novel dwells upon the final days of colonial power in French Indo-China, as decay and corruption spread, while the status of the white colonists erodes, and wealthy Asians, particularly the Chinese begin to manisfest themselves. In autobiographical writing, published many years after the novel, Duras declared that the nationality of Mr Jo was Chinese. Likely, "Jo" is the francophone form of the Chinese name Zhou.

Despite the air of decay in colonial society, Suzanne and Joseph find freedom and release in the lush wilderness of the forest that surrounds their concession.

The novel build up slowly, and dwells long on a limited number of motives, to bring each to full bearing upon the story. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 10, 2013 |
Beautifully written book with vivid yet bleak descriptions of French colonial Indochina- rampant corruption, abject poverty, racism, prostitution, you name it. Not a lot of action, but highly developed characters and sense of time and place. ( )
1 vote belgrade18 | Aug 16, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marguerite Durasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Capmany, Maria AurèliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pessarrodona, MartaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für Robert
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Alle drei hatten den Kauf des Pferdes für eine gute Idee gehalten.
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