Marie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

This novella by the Belgian writer Madeleine Bourdouxhe is a surprising read. Its portrait of an emancipated woman has an existentialist flavour. Nonetheless, it also owes something to the meditations of Proust. The result is that the reader is sometimes confused by the unconventional morals which bubble up through the narrative.

The context of the story is of real importance. Composed during the hardship and chaos of the Second World War, depicting characters acting in accordance with desire instead of tradition must not have seemed to be a strange choice for a creative artist.

The unpredictability and beauty of life is central to the tale. Playing it safe is not seen as a valid option. However, there is arguably a selfish simplicity near the core of the work:

“Just as she smiled at all the gentle people who passed: at two children who lingered to look at her, satchels under their arms; at a woman in a hurry; at a young soldier who had no desire for victory of any kind: at all these gentle people touched by the simple grace of being alive.”

 

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