The Impudent Ones

A Novel

Published for the first time in English, the debut novel of Marguerite Duras—renowned author of The Lover and The War—is the story of a family’s moral reckoning and a daughter’s fall from grace

“First I read without displeasure. And then with pleasure. She was undoubtedly a writer. I carried on, turning the pages over, one after another. No, I wasn’t wrong.” —Dominique Arban, Plon Publishing House, Paris, France, 1941

Marguerite Duras rose to global stardom with her erotic masterpiece The Lover (L’Amant), which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, has over a million copies in print in English, has been translated into forty-three languages, and was adapted into a canonical film in 1992. While almost all of Duras’s novels have been translated into English, her debut The Impudent Ones (Les Impudents) has been a glaring exception—until now. Fans of Duras will be thrilled to discover the germ of her bold, vital prose and signature blend of memoir and fiction in this intense and mournful story of the Taneran family, which introduces Duras’s classic themes of familial conflict, illicit romance, and scandal in the sleepy suburbs and southwest provinces of France.

Duras’s great gift was her ability to bring vivid and passionate life to characters with whom society may not have sympathized, but with whom readers certainly do. With storytelling that evokes in equal parts beauty and brutality, The Impudent Ones depicts the scalding effects of seduction and disrepute on the soul of a young French girl.

Including an essay on the story behind The Impudent Ones by Jean Vallier—biographer of the late Duras—which contextualizes the origins of Duras’s debut novel, this one-of-a-kind publishing endeavor will delight established Duras fans and a new generation of readers alike.

Praise

“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.”
Booklist
“Finally we have a masterful English translation of Duras’s first novel. In it one finds the landscapes and characters, moods and affects, that will appear later in her work: the suffocating toxicity of the nuclear family, the misery and boredom of the petite bourgeoisie, the brutality and honesty of young, sensual love, all held together by the dream-like wandering of a central female character refusing to be trapped by any of it. Echoes of Flaubert and Mauriac, but also of Sand and Emily Brontë... and yet Duras was only 26 when the novel was published! Absolutely spellbinding...”
—Alice Jardine, professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University and author of At the Risk of Thinking
“Two enlightening afterwords enhance this volume—the first by translator Haskett and the second by Duras’s biographer Jean Vallier. . . . The English language version of The Impudent Ones is significant. . . . The book offers a roadmap for what was to come.”
—Martha Anne Toll, NPR Books
“Marguerite Duras’s lyrical first novel explores the same thematic material one finds in the author’s mature work -- a family on the brink of ruin, a mother’s unmeasured love for her destructive eldest son, a young woman’s coming of age, depleted agricultural land, and illicit desire -- allowing readers to encounter one of the foremost French novelists of the twentieth century in a new light. While the story unfolds in provincial France, not in the colonies, and Duras’s prose does not quite have the bare violence of her later novels, her control of narrative and the brutal honesty with which she approaches feminine subjectivity and interrogates social class are already fully realized in ways that anticipate the work of Elena Ferrante; Haskett’s translation is excellent.”
—Kathryn Lachman, associate professor of Comparative Literature at UMass Amherst and author of Borrowed Forms
“Fans of Marguerite Duras will be happy to discover her first novel, published for the first time in English by The New Press. The Impudent Ones is the work of a young writer still looking for her voice and style, but it explores a family dynamic that would recur in Duras’s best-known works. The drama of a mother whose love of her good-for-nothing son overshadows all other affections, and a daughter caught between her love for her mother and her loathing of her rascally older brother, creates a toxic atmosphere that Duras’s readers will recognize from works like The Lover and The Seawall. Bravo to The New Press for making The Impudent Ones available to the English-speaking public!”
—Susan Rubin Suleiman, professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University and author of The Némirovsky Question
“In this well-cadenced translation by Kelsey L. Haskett, we are given a remarkable first novel that documents ‘the days’ unchanging flow,’ their constraints, conflicts, ‘chasms of light,’ their ferocity and consolations.”
4Columns

News and Reviews

Book Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Marguerite Duras’s debut novel The Impudent Ones.

Books by Marguerite Duras

Wartime Writings
1943–1949

Marguerite Duras

The North China Lover

Marguerite Duras

The War
A Memoir

Marguerite Duras

Goodreads Reviews