[ilds] [RG 2003 Justine 1.1]

James Gifford gifford at ualberta.ca
Fri Apr 6 12:48:41 PDT 2007

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From: Bruce Redwine
Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2003 15:04:48 -0400
Subject: [ILDS] ILDS:  Discussion Group--AQ1.  Redwine.

My first posting to the Durrell list.   Hope I get it right.

First, let me thank the creators of this discussion group on Durrell's
writings and all those who have contributed to it.  I've found the exchanges
exciting and provocative.  I've been reading Durrell since 1958 and have
never recovered from the experience.

A note on Durrell's use of language, which I sometimes find odd, baffling,
idiosyncratic, yet grand and powerful.  It seems to me that LD, in part,
achieves his evocative effects through diction which doesn't always make
much sense but nonetheless carries great emotive punch.  "Inventions of
Spring" is odd, but I take it, as A. J. French does, to suggest creation.
What does "unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes" (J 1.1)
mean?  Shouldn't "planes" be "plains," as in Salisbury Plain?  Is "plane" a
variant on its homonym? 

Is it British English?  The OED doesn't list this, however.  A spelling
mistake, a typo?  Ransacking makes some sense, but how do you "unpack" a
plane/plain?  Some kind of clearing-away process?  Probably that, which is
reinforced by the idea of destruction and plundering, appropriate to a
speaker who has retreated to an island to recover and rebuild and who has
projected his mood onto the landscape.  (The island, by the way, I've always
taken to be Cyprus, where LD was at the time of writing Justine).  As
Charles Sligh notes, the cadences of this phrase important.  It does run
like a fugue, enhanced by the insistent parallelism, and have a hypnotic
effect.  Sumantra Nag scans the first lines of the evocation and shows its
rhythms.  Durrell clearly wants the "pack" rhyme.  So, emotionally,
musically the reader is brought into Darley's world and mind, but at the
sacrifice of clarity, which is also appropriate to the narrator's distraught
state.  All this is poetry at work, stretching the use of language.   Seems
to me, however, that Durrell's genius with words will sometimes get the
better of him.  I find his late poetry difficult. Often puzzling, but always
rewarding.  Still, there's nothing wrong with making the reader work
for his/her keep.  Joyce knew that.  And in a Joycean vein, doesn't "Gold,
phosphorus, magnesium paper" (J 1.4) have the density of a bit of displaced
thought in Ulysses?  I hadn't thought of the photographic connection, so
aptly made by Bill Godshalk, but tend to agree with French that the words
are "his first tentative memories which are surfacing."  Cf., however, the
barbershop photo near the beginning of Balthazar; that photo is a similar
aid to memory.  LD, I believe, uses "magnesium flashes" for lightning in
Bitter Lemons or Reflections on a Marine Venus.  (How helpful a concordance
of LD's works would be!)  So, Darley's trying to light up the past?  --  BR

Bruce Redwine
theirfosi at aol.com

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