“It was on that evening that Leo kissed me on the mouth [for the first time]. I felt a cool and moist contact with my lips. The revulsion I felt truly cannot be described. … I did calm down, however, and slid over to the end of the seat as far from Léo as possible. And there I spat into my handkerchief. I kept spitting. … Truly I felt a kind of aftermath of rape. … Ugliness had entered my mouth, I had communed with horror. I was violated to my very soul.”

Marguerite Duras was very old, very alcoholic and very ill when she wrote The Lover, an autobiographical tale of a teenage French girl's scandalous affair with an older Chinese millionaire in Saigon. The story was drawn from her youth in Indochina and it sold a million copies in 43 languages and made into a major commercial movie in 1992.

Duras published The Lover when she was 70, fifty-five years after she met Léo, the Chinese man of her story. Biographer Laure Adler writes, “All her life, in one form or another, Marguerite never stopped telling the story of the lover.” The Lover – as he is referred to throughout – madly loves the teenager and wants to be with her but his father “won’t let his son marry the little white whore.” But it’s not that he really matters to the girl.

She wants his money for herself and her family. Her mother doesn’t mind her intentions either. When she returns to France she hears of his marriage to a Chinese woman and believes, arrogantly, that his love for his new wife would fail as he would still be in love with her.

The Lover was awarded the 1984 Prix Goncourt. Barbara Bray's English translation won the Scott Moncrieff Prize and PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize in 1986.

Published in 1984. Translated from the French by Barbara Bray, published in 1985.