[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:24:33 PDT 2007

------ Forwarded Message
From: Isabelle Keller
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 19:15:21 +0200
To: Anna Lillios
Subject: [ILDS] Discussion Group--AQ1.


I am sorry to have kept silent for such a long time! And I want to thank
Charles and James for their brilliant initiative! I took great pleasure in
reading the latest exchanges and in rereading Durrell. Being lazy at the
moment I started from what has been discussed so far and organized my
answers in the attached file according to who I was answering...but that
includes all writers and readers so far!
I am looking forward to more discussions!
Best wishes to all

Isabelle Keller


Answers to Bill Godshalk

1) The narrator writes of "the first great fragmentation" of his maturity
(section 7).  And the first seven sections certainly reflect that
fragmentation.  And, yes, I realize that this is the imitative fallacy. But
does the fragmented style (e.g. the first paragraph of section 3) work well

It would be far too long to prove point by point the well organized
structure of the ³fragmentation² Durrell plays on throughout these 7
sections. But since you ask about the first § of section 3, I can¹t resist
the temptation! 
To me, this is one of the most brilliant pieces of imitative fallacy, as you
say. This is a fragment of perfected synaesthesia, which itself is the
tentative recomposition of fragmented perception. It starts on a mirrored
anagram ³Notes for landscape tones² and builds up a painting or ³tempera²
which does not mix colours, as traditional tempera does, but perceptions:
light, colour, smell, touch and taste. Progressively, colours become the
very material of painting itself ³dust-red, dust-green, chalk-mauve². Thus,
the text evinces its own process of creation. And this becomes all the more
meaningful in the 4th section where Durrell creates a system of overt
The taste of the ³pavements slaked with water² metamorphoses into that of
³the mouth that fell upon mine like an unslaked summer²;
The touch of dust in ³brick-dust², and then ³dust-red², ³dust-green² becomes
the very touch of Melissa¹s skin: ³as if still dusted by the pollen of his
And if we go a little further down to the 2nd§ of section 3 we find that the
³snatches of song like petals² pave the way in section 4 for ³the open petal
of the mouth².  
It seems to me that this is another typical example of Durrell¹s indirect
yet extremely cohesive technique.

2) In section 4, the narrator writes: "Gold, phosphorus, magnesium paper.
Here we so often met."  The "here" may refer to Mazarita."  But the paper?
Tram tickets?

I don¹t think ³Here² is to be taken too narrowly; rather, it refers to the
whole context: the world of the city which the enumeration ³Clang of
tramsŠGold, phosphorous, magnesium paper² tries to recapture. As for
³magnesium paper² don¹t you think this would rather refer to the magnesium
paper of photography? In this case we would be dealing here with a reference
to another favoured mode of reproduction in Durrell¹s prose: photography,
which complements painting. Also, the enumeration of minerals (gold,
phosphorous, magnesium) is reminiscent of Durrell¹s Ballad of Slow Decay,
stanza 3: ³How can man withstand the atmosphere / This hell compounded of
such strange alloys?².

3) So from a global perspective Charlie can write:

"Once readers have passed through the remaining text, I think, Darley's
choice may become more clear, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. This
name, Justine, consciously opens up a key point of valence--a specialized
point of poetic associations, an intersection
of meanings--in a novel wherein the reader learns to see names, events,
objects, personalities, and even perspectives as multivalent."
Like the images in a multiple mirror.

Yes, of course, I agree entirely with both of you. We only need to remember
Balthazar¹s apt remark: ³by one of those fearful displacementsŠ² (Faber,
One-vol, J 188). The text constantly asks the reader to play and juggle with
such displacements. And the withholding of the woman¹s name is just another
instance: she never appears where / when she should. And the game on names
gets more and more tricky: opening the novel called Justine, the reader is
first faced with Melissa throughout the preliminary sections. But Melissa¹s
name is always delayed, such as in section 8 (at the end of the passage);
this is a stylistic prolepsis foreshadowing the delayed appearance of the
name Justine in the 1st§ of section 10. Justine / Melissa thus appear as the
2 estranged sisters or as the two sides of the same coin.

4) I suppose we should note that Durrell quotes De Sade's Justine as one of
his epigraphs for the novel.  So when the narrator decides to name the
unnamed child "Justine," that decision is in the immediate context of De

Justine then like Sade¹s Justine, like the title of the novel (which does
not deal with the child but with the step-mother and her missing child);
Justine as a truly ³mythical² character, as a paper character. But, as you
remark later on, the construction of the paper character, i.e. the
intertextual character, is also a matter of choice on the reader¹s part.
However, I am not sure whether the question to be asked is that of the power
of the text vs. that of the reader. I would rather talk of different reading
times / or layers of readings. For a new Durrell reader the most important
question to be solved is that of the character¹s identities and functions
within the fiction. Only later on, from afar, when the most obvious
questions of who is who have been solved, can we play the intertextual game.
And this game involves not only Durrell¹s external readings but also our
readings of Durrell¹s other texts. And at this point it becomes a matter of
choice; for instance we may prefer to highlight the echoes to Mika Waltari's
The Egyptian
(1949) or those to Shakespeare, to Forster, Keats,  etc.

5) We cannot know what is referred to by "Justine" in
the novel Justine until we finish reading it.  Nor can we speculate what is
meant by the name "Justine" in the Alexandria Quartet until we have
finished reading it.

But do we ever know for good? I am not so sureŠI know that sounds depressing
but it¹s also part of the game, of Durrell¹s in-ludus, isn¹t it?

6) But "invention" is also a musical terms meaning "short piece of music in
which a single idea is worked out in a simple mannner."  Could Durrell be
suggesting that these initial sections are inventions in the music sense? 

This is part of course of the interartistic echoes drawing bridges between
Durrell¹s writing and musicŠthis a long topic which I won¹t develop here but
of course ³inventions², ³notes², tones², ³sequences², like ³Quartet² are
part of same lexical field and seem to build up a musical string of
associations underlying the painterly one. This would also tie in with
Durrell¹s poetry, I¹m thinking in particular of his line ³I heard to relearn
everything again² (Rain, Rain, Go to Spain) which could be an interesting
angle to reread / relisten to the ³inner music² of ALQ

Answers to Sumantra Nag

1) 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.

Yes, as well as the ambiguous identity of the city-woman / woman-city entity
which is later developed at Melissa¹s death when the city welcomes Darley as
³a cocotte refreshed by the darkness² (Faber, one-vol, J, 190).

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

Frankly, will we ever be able to distinguish between the spontaneous and the
carefully designed in a work of art? This is huge debate, I know! But if we
follow the classical definition of genius and accept the notion that it
derives from God¹s gift developed and wrought by man we can hardly draw the
line between what derives from Durrell¹s or anybody else¹s spontaneous
impulse and what is due to his / her conscious designŠ Does that sound too
fatalistic? Sorry!

3) 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.

Now, are you hinting at a ³postcolonial reading² here? I would rather see a
mirror effect (both stylistically and textually since the same description
recurs in Clea). And this mirror effect would trigger the mesmerizing sexual
inversions of the novel, confusing the differences between the hetero and
the homo in the figure of the androgynous creator _ a mere reflection of the
textual blurring between the new and the old text (Justine / Clea) which
finds its apotheosis in the allusion to another previous writing: that of
the Old Testament: ³winepress of love² which harks back to Lamentations 1:15
and Joel 3:13.  

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