[ilds] [RG Justine 1.1]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:04:52 PDT 2007


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 09:12:22 -0400
From: Sumantra Nag
To: Anna Lillios 
Subject: DURRELL:


First I would like to compliment you (James Gifford and
Charles Sligh) for launching the promised reading group. I
also think it is a very good idea to start from the opening
passages of Justine (which still ring with their
captivating hold over the imagination even forty years
after I first read Justine). It also seems to be a good
idea to generally follow a policy in the reading group, of
taking specific passages or portions for open discussion
and comment.

I do not know whether you would like the comments to be
sent as attached files or as part of the main text. To
begin with, I am communicating them as part of the main
text of this reply.

Evocation

_Evocation_ is the word that comes to mind in relation to
the opening passages of _Justine_, although it would, of
course, apply to the whole work of the Alexandria Quartet.

The most memorable quality of the very first passage seems
to be the cadence of the opening lines - the rhythm which
is so pronounced:

_The sea/ is high/ again/ today, with a thri/..lling flush/
of wind._

[I do remember reading in the communications of the ILDS,
an appreciation of the quality of the prose of the opening
passages of Justine- possibly in reference to the following
lines:

_Empty cadences of sea-water, licking its own wounds,
sulking along the mouths of the delta..._
The initiators of the current message starting the reading
group, may be able to place this correspondence.]

Also arresting is the way in which the word _inventions_ is
unexpectedly introduced in relation to Spring, in the very
next sentence.

The echoing chimney piece is remotely reminiscent of the
opening pages of J.B. Priestley's _Bright Day_, a work in
which the author is drawn back to his youth after coming
across a couple at a sea side resort in Britain, whom he
remembered from his dim past. The fireside is a setting
which is also suggested (quite directly, as an appropriate
setting for telling his story)  by Ford Maddox Ford when he
begins _The Good Soldier_ - a work which also winds between
different periods of the past and recounts the occasions
when revelations came to the narrator. Of course, Lawrence
Durrell has mentioned somewhere that he read _The Good
Soldier_ after writing Justine. Durrell praised the
structure of _The Good Soldier_ and considered it fortunate
that he had not read the book before writing Justine,
because the superiority of its structure would have impeded
his progress while writing_Justine_.

What captures one's attention immediately and rivets it to
the prospective subject of _Justine_ is the phrase _beloved
Alexandria!_. It is then that the contrast between the
narrator's present setting of a remote island and his
memories of a seething city begins to take shape.

All this seems to have ben done spontaneously and without
the artifice of a carefully designed structure beginning
with surprise.

The second section of Part I,  beginning

_Capitally, what is this city of ours? What is resumed in
the word Alexandria? In a flash my mind's eye..._
launches the reader into a reverie where description and
reflection combine - a characteristic of much of the
writing in the Alexandria Quartet.

The second paragraph of this (second) section of Part I is,
in my opinion, a caricature of _fine writing_ in the sense
that the sweeping assessments of what Durrell sees as a a
major, dominating influence of the city -- the _sexual
provender_ and its _androgynous_ character -- is confusing.
I would like to end my response for now, in the hope that
it will be possible to continue to express my reflections
on this portion (_Justine_ 1.1 -- 1.7) in a piecemeal
manner.
Regards.

(Mr.) SUMANTRA NAG

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