The Ravishing of Lol Stein

Duras, Marguerite

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Mar-05-1998


Lol Stein is 19 years old and engaged to be married. At the town ball, her fiance leaves her and runs away with a beautiful stranger. Lol withdraws into herself, but seems not to feel much pain. In fact, she subsequently lives her life in a dull, almost-numb state, never really interacting with people nor experiencing feelings (pain or joy). She falls into a loveless marriage and has children.

After ten years she encounters a school friend, Tatiana Karl, who had been with her at the town ball. Tatiana also has a loveless marriage, but has taken a lover, the young doctor Jacques Hold. There is a strong attraction between Lol and Jacques and they have an affair, but she remains peculiarly abstracted and estranged from life.


This is a novel about the dull absence of pain, a sort of hysterical anesthesia, induced by the traumatic loss of Lol Stein’s young love. David B. Morris, in The Culture of Pain (pp. 117-120, see this database), uses the book as a literary example of hysterical numbness among women in contemporary society. He seems to say that the rejection of pain (when pain is appropriate) may lead to a continuing inability to experience any feelings at all. Duras, in Morris’ interpretation, suggests that in our society this may be problem of gender, rather than finding its roots in Lol’s childhood experience.


Translated by Richard Seaver.



Place Published

New York



Page Count