[ilds] Justine 1.1 -- Ironic?

Alejandro Adams hungerist at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 25 15:52:26 PDT 2007

Bruce Redwine writes, "I, for one, made that decision a very long time ago, 
and I prefer not to see Durrell's work as being saturated in irony."

I'm particularly sensitive to the Irony Question, and I fall in line with 
Bruce's deliberately circumscribed orientation--that is, I make the effort 
to take the novel as "serious," despite doubts raised by the possibility of 
"multiple readings."  Whatever primal remnant of my being responds to 
Justine demands a monolithic experience--of which I am more victim than 
participant--rather than anything as self-conscious-sounding as an 

I had a particularly rich experience with The Good Soldier on my first 
reading and was surprised to learn that a Mark Schorer essay which 
encouraged an ironic reading of the novel had become the academic standard 
for a few decades (maybe someone here can qualify this assertion).  A later 
influential essay (eighties?  but by whom?  must consult the Norton Critical 
Ed.) counter-attacked Schorer's position and, much in the spirit of Bruce's 
post, argued that the novel was an earnest, even sentimental effort on 
Ford's part.  Which is not to say that The Good Soldier is without its share 
of wit and physical comedy.

"The Good Soldier" is an ironic title, but even that is accidental: the 
publisher asked Ford to come up with a more marketable title than The 
Saddest Story, under which cloud Ford had written the novel, so the author 
sent a tongue-in-cheek telegram from the battlefield which suggested it be 
called The Good Soldier.  To Ford's surprise, he soon saw a novel of that 
title on a bookshelf and discovered it was otherwise his own.  This anecdote 
provides an apt metaphor for any author's relationship to interpretation: 
bemusement and, above all, total absence from the process.

Though ignorant of allusiveness, a reader may still be amused by 
Lolita--Nabokov made sure of that.  If FMF or LD were subtly mocking their 
narrators or, by extension, their own ostensible stylistic preoccupations 
(unreliability in The Good Soldier or "the 'fine' prose style of Justine"), 
then they would have been not-so-subtly mocking much of their readership. 
It seems to me...

Alejandro Adams

More information about the ILDS mailing list