[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:27:39 PDT 2007

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 08:27:43 -0400
From: Isabelle keller
To: Anna Lillios <lillios at PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU>

Hello all,

I am terribly sorry about the unreadable attached file! Here it is again:

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 "fragmentation" Durrell plays on throughout these 7

sections. But since you ask about the first § of section 3, I can't 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 "Notes for landscape tones" and builds up a painting or "tempera"

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 "dust-red, dust-green, chalk-mauve". 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 "pavements slaked with water" metamorphoses into that of

"the mouth that fell upon mine like an unslaked summer";

The touch of dust in "brick-dust", and then "dust-red", "dust-green" becomes

the very touch of Melissa's skin: "as 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

"snatches of song like petals" pave the way in section 4 for "the open petal

of the mouth".

It seems to me that this is another typical example of Durrell's 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 don't think "Here" is to be taken too narrowly; rather, it refers to the

whole context: the world of the city which the enumeration "Clang of

trams.Gold, phosphorous, magnesium paper" tries to recapture. As for

"magnesium paper" don't 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 Durrell's prose: photography,

which complements painting. Also, the enumeration of minerals (gold,

phosphorous, magnesium) is reminiscent of Durrell's Ballad of Slow Decay,

stanza 3: "How can man withstand the atmosphere / This hell compounded of

such strange alloys?".

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

Balthazar's apt remark: "by one of those fearful displacements." (Faber,

One-vol, J 188). The text constantly asks the reader to play and juggle with

such displacements. And the withholding of the woman's 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 Melissa's

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 Sade's 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 "mythical" 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 reader's 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 character's 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 Durrell's external readings but also our

readings of Durrell's 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 sure.I know that sounds depressing

but it's also part of the game, of Durrell's in-ludus, isn't 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

Durrell's writing and music.this a long topic which I won't develop here but

of course "inventions", "notes", tones", "sequences", like "Quartet" 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

Durrell's poetry, I'm thinking in particular of his line "I heard to relearn

everything again" (Rain, Rain, Go to Spain) which could be an interesting

angle to reread / relisten to the "inner music" 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 Melissa's death when the city welcomes Darley as

"a cocotte refreshed by the darkness" (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 God's gift developed and wrought by man we can hardly draw the

line between what derives from Durrell's or anybody else's spontaneous

impulse and what is due to his / her conscious design. 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 "postcolonial reading" 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: "winepress of love" which harks back to Lamentations 1:15

and Joel 3:13.

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