Would the bright child of an immigrant family who never had the chance to go to school make it in life?
Would a mother who hung to memories of an adventurous night in a train with a man be happy with another for the rest of her life?
What about children, who look after each other, and constantly wonder when their parents are going to leave them for good?
What about the father, whose only worry in life is that the mother would leave him and spends the rest of his time crying?
Rain in summer
Sommerregen- Marguerite Duras
This is a story about a family and about individuals. It is about love and about dreams.
A story of an immigrant family in France, of their life, their struggles and ideology.
The story describes the growing up of the elder 2 children of the family, Ernesto and Jeanne. The father and the mother, the remaining 5 children are hardly mentioned by name.
The mother dominated by experiences of passionate love in the past remains in a world of her own.
“Sie liebten die Grausamkeit der Mutter. Sie liebten die Mutter. Sie liebten es, von der Mutter im Stich gelassen zu werden. “
“They loved the mother’s cruelty. They loved their mother. They loved being let down by their mother.”
The father plays his role as being the mother’s protector, who never leaves her side in the fear that she would leave to an unknown place and not come back. Neither of them have a job or seem to do anything productive. The parents are intelligent, well read and have ideals which are impractical in the real world, but very real to them.
In their story, the children provide them with ”Children’s money” that the government give the parents for their care. The children are not cared for by any adult except for being provided food. None of them go to school. Earnesto and Jeanne look after the ‘children’ and provide them emotional support, by understanding them and reading to them.
There is a lot of crying (every few pages of the book has someone crying), the father cries, Earnesto cries, so do the children.
The underlying tone of the book is also the search for a God .
“An jenem Abend hatte die Mutter gewusst, dass Earnestos Schweigen zugleich Gott und nicht Gott, der Drang zu leben und der Drang zu sterben war. “
“ That evening, the mother knew, that Earnesto’s silence was simultaneously the presence of God, and his absence, the urge to live and the urge to die.”
The life of the children, their hope and strength revolve around a book- One which is a little burnt and yet readable. The book contains the story of a king- King Solomon and the Ecclesiastes, are the ones frequently mentioned.
Earnesto has special abilities. He has taught himself to read and write using this one book. Later, he starts to read books given to him by a teacher. He has attended school for 4 days and decides to stop going because “They taught him things he did not know about.” Jeanne goes to school for 10 days before she discontinues.
Earnesto and Jeanne merge into each other in a way only children in suffering can, with each declaring not willing or able to live without the other. Jeanne confesses her love to her father, thought no true words of love are openly spoken, there is an understanding beyond words, which is in my opinion the only good portrayal of relationship in this book. As a consequence their physical relationship is not shocking and does not come as a surprise.
At the end of the book Earnesto leaves to study, Jeanne leaves too, the father and the mother ‘allow themselves to die’ and the children go to foster care. The teacher later adopts the children.
That is the end of the story.
How do you feel at the end of the story? You feel like you have lost all hope, you feel depressed and you carry a bit of the weight of the injustice of what has happened.
There is unfortunately no English translation of the book yet. I would recommend it for easy read, a little thought provoking, but definitely not for pleasure.
Take away points from the book:
Mothers can be indifferent.
A genius will come up no matter what the circumstances.
Life can be terribly unfair.
In the midst of the dark there is usually a tiny little light.
You can find the German version of the book here.
The French version of the book can be found here.