In a vaguely Faulknerian backwater in French Indochina roiled by oppressive heat, oppressive poverty and just the faintest glimmer of incest as a possible avenue of escape for at least one of the three main characters, the unnamed la mère, her 20-year old son Joseph and her 16-year old daughter Suzanne are all desperately looking for a way out after the mother has lost her life savings on a plot of worthless floodland as the price to pay for her chance to settle in the colony...surely a high water mark of sorts both within Duras' own impressive body of work and within the annals of the postcolonial novel as a whole, the aesthetic brutality of the prose in Un barragecontre le Pacifique [The Sea Wall] is both less elliptical and maybe more punishing than usual with Duras--style taking a backseat to theme if you will...lest the lack of experimentation scare off fans accustomed to later Duras, suffice it to say that in a novel whose narrative tension derives in large part from the train wreck-like spectacle of waiting to see whether the mother or the brother will essentially auction off Suzanne's virginity to the highest bidder, the author doesn't avert her own gaze when it matters--cf. the commodification of the flesh juxtaposition between the native woman who prostitutes herself to put some dried fish on the table for her family and the exploitative tendencies of the French colony characterized as "ce bordel colossal" ["this colossal brothel"] (198) where "Le latex coulait. Le sang aussi" ["The latex flowed. The blood did, too"] (169). Riveting.
Marguerite Duras (1914-1996)
Guy of His Futile Preoccupations recommended The Sea Wall to me a couple of years ago. His review can be found here.