Duras, in an afterword, explains that this present book was written as a kind of appendage to and reworking of a movie she'd made, The Children. Short and pregnant with silence, as Duras's work tends to be, it's the story of an immigrant Italian welfare-family living in the Paris suburb of Vitry--a poor and illiterate family whose purity of heart squeezes up a prodigy, the oldest son, Ernesto. Ernesto, like all the other kids of the family, is unschooled--but all of a sudden he's begun to teach himself to read. When he does try school, he leaves after ten days because of the teacher's understandably confounded refusal to teach him ""what he already knows."" This gnomic utterance is the backbone of the book, which proceeds in mostly screenplayish dialogue--and quickly becomes a one-note tune: a political/mystical argument for innate knowledge over modernity. The immigrant family is a unit of natural poetry against which all the conventions of contemporary life are as nothing (a newish French left shibboleth). There is, too, for Duras's fans, a small incest theme--without which, since the popular The Lover (1985), Duras rarely leaves home. Slight and silly and adrip with intellectual attitude.