I know it is awfully late now, to write to you. I could not resist though. I thought about you the other day; as her eyes scanned the Chinese gentleman for the first time, on the ferry to Mekong. The demure young features veiled under a mannish hat, gave away precocious impression of a 15 year old girl as he offered her a cigarette. The statuesque Chinaman who exuded charm and eloquence was besotted by her as she was by him. He was to be her lover; an escape from the abhorrent and impoverished life. On the brink of her sexual exploration, she yearned for the pleasure of his touch, his embrace; a world that was beyond the imagination of a young school girl. As she pressed her red-stained lips on the cold glass of his car, he knew he could never marry her, a fact that he told her several times, but would always love her, for “A love like this, so strong, it never happens again in a lifetime…never.”
As the movie played on my screen, I searched for your book and there it lay among the dusty pile of old books, a slight tattered at the cover page. An affair of a pubescent girl with a 27-year old affluent Chinese man brings variation in one’s perception. Over the years, the book was disparaged for its pedophilic nature and the overtly sexual display of a young girl romanticizing to the term ‘prostitutes’. The girl’s impecunious and abusive family history, they said was a convenient backdrop to pen a fragile child pornographic literary piece. From the time I read the book as an 12 year old, when I accidentally “borrowed” the book from my cousin’s library stock to those several occasions, I comprehended the writings as an adult, all I observed was a power struggle of an adolescent who naively used her sexuality to find a sense of belonging and in some way gain control over her existence. The story is far more complicated than just the exterior of a love affair. It delineates a distorted notion of true love (if the term is applicable here), the hypocrisy of social mores and the chaos derived from infidelity and wealth.
I have cherished the book for decades now, and words fail me in expressing my heartwarming thankfulness for bursting my initial deluded bubble of an idyllic Nancy Drew utopia, exposing the discrepancies of a flawed society and sullied emotions. Life unexpectedly became a rational place to live in.
R.I. P. – Ms. Duras.
The 7th grader, who once scribbled ‘orgasm’ for the very first time in her history textbook and became wiser.