[ilds] RG Justine 1.1 -1.9 of course

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Wed Apr 18 04:28:29 PDT 2007

It is nothing to do with reading ahead.  It is to do with writing 
ahead.  Durrell is writing this book, and he is looking ahead.  Along 
the way he is controlling the effects and controlling the reader.  He 
is bringing the reader into his own world which operates according to 
his own rules.  This is very pleasant when reading a book like 
Prospero's Cell; one says it is a 'travel book' and that one enjoys the 
enchantment.  'You enter Greece as one might enter a dark crystal.'  In 
fact you are slipped a Mickey Finn right on the first page; told you 
are discovering yourself, you are then taken in to Mr Durrell's world, 
which despite the subtitle 'A guide to the landscape and manners of the 
island of Corcyra' is not nearly so localised as that.  Justine is not 
a travel book, but it opens in the same way, and you are taken into a 
world.  You are given landscape tones, seasons, seas and breezes, but 
you are also presented with certain rules and assumptions, stated or 
implicit, and these things make Durrell's world special and very much 
his own.  The lack of narrative, of chronological markers, for example, 
gives the reader no purchase and gives the writer all the more power -- 
he will throw in the markers when he likes, he will say what is 
significant or not, and when.

The story teller is on an island with a child.  He has complete 
possession of this child.  He has the child, he has the child alone 
with him on an island.  He has not yet named the child, but it is for 
him to give the child a name.  A remarkable degree of power over this 
child.  But indeed he will, later, give the child a name.  He has not 
yet done so, but when he does so he will name it Justine.  Of course.  
Such is his power to do what he likes.

The 'of course' was added to the MS at a late stage, but it simply 
reinforces the implicit 'of course' that the story teller should be on 
the island with a child at all.  Is this legal, it is proper, for him 
to be taking a child not his own to another place, another country, 
naming it as he pleases, etc?  You do not ask, because he has it, has 
done it, and as the story teller he can do what he wants, of course.

The child is in someway the product of the four of us.  The story 
teller's right to the child lies in his being one of the four.  Who are 
these four?  Who really are these four for Durrell?


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