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Revisit L’Amant in Vietnam

2 minute read
John Clapham

“Dong Thap’s House of Love Proves Popular Attraction,” screams the headline. This isn’t the front page of a bawdy magazine; it’s an item on a Vietnamese news-agency website.

The story relates to the house of Huynh Thuy Le, an ethnic Chinese man and the central character in French author Marguerite Duras’ steamy, largely autobiographical novella, L’Amant (The Lover), set in 1920s colonial Indochina. The book recounts 15-year-old Duras’ illicit affair with Le, a bachelor 12 years her senior.

(See pictures of Vietnam grappling with modernity and change.)

Both Duras and Le lived in the Mekong Delta town of Sa Dec in Dong Thap province. Her mother was an impoverished schoolteacher, his father a wealthy landlord. While returning to boarding school in Saigon, Duras accepted a lift in Le’s limousine. Their subsequent affair was portrayed in the stylish 1992 film of the same name.

The Le family departed the house in 1972 and after the Vietnam War it became a police station. Last year, authorities declared it a historic site and ever since a stream of visitors, mainly foreigners, has come to complete another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of Duras’ turbulent life.

The house was built in 1917, replacing a wooden home erected in 1895. The busy facade combines Chinese and Classical elements, while the interior walls display photographs of both Le’s and Duras’ families, although the relationship was never condoned by either side.

If you fancy taking a longer time to soak up the atmosphere, there are four basic rooms available. A bed, dinner and breakfast costs just $32 a night. Call (84) 673 773 937 for reservations.

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