[ilds] Pursewarden -- Ironic?

Alejandro Adams hungerist at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 26 16:31:26 PDT 2007

CLS writes, "I for one aspire to be a reader never too lazy to use a knife 
on my author."

I'm not sure "laziness" can be attributed in a case in which a conscious and 
tenacious effort is being made to put aside a ubiquitous cultural filter (I 
would compare the choice to that of a monk if it didn't sound so 
self-aggrandizing and "romantic," though there are overtones of innocence 
and reverence which I fancy), but I accept the accusation in as much as I'm 
here to be challenged rather than to challenge (or counter-challenge).

That said (and I apologize in advance for straying from Justine, but at the 
mention of Pursewarden as one of Durrell's avatars, it's difficult not to 
invoke certain parts of Clea), in Pursewarden's notebook I sense a 
retroactive prolepsis (an oxymoron, like so many ideas prompted by the 
Quartet) on the part of the author, who seems to be attacking himself, 
rather than an ironic metacommentary on the character of Darley (am I 
splitting hairs here?).  To brutalize Darley's values--the vehemence and 
vitriol are elevated to a level which belies the necessary indirectness of 
irony, no?

If Darley is Romanticism and Pursewarden Irony, then what is Arnauti but a 
more robust totem of Romanticism, with his inimitable and daunting 
earnestness and perspicacity and artistic integrity and verbal flair? 
Whatever glib criticisms Darley may offer in regard to the formal 
pretensions of Arnauti's Moeurs, he cites the work liberally, in a spirit of 
envy and awe ("savage insight," "accurate and penetrating").  So what are we 
to make of Arnauti in terms of Durrell's multiple avatars?  Granted: he is 
an elusive figure, an incorporeal mentor or spirit guide, only a refracted 
presence in the novel.  But if Pursewarden is intended to provide an ironic 
metacommentary on Darley, are we to take Arnauti as even more of a "joke" in 
his display of fine writing?  "Come on, at least Darley isn't THAT 

Isn't the entire interlinear of Balthazar an ironic beating up of Darley as 
narrator?  Less scornful and more patronizing than Pursewarden's--but 
Balthazar is addressing Darley's grasp of human affairs, not his literary 
values.  Isn't Balthazar equally ignorant of the truth of the matters 
regarding which he fastidiously corrects Darley?  But, then, we know the AQ 
is an epistemological enterprise.  So is everyone wrong about everything or 
is everyone right about everything?  Isn't Arnauti the most right 
(rightmost) by virtue of not having been subject to the sort of machinations 
and deceit--not to such a profound degree at any rate--which result in 
Darley and Balthazar and Pursewarden being so thoroughly duped?  Don't we 
have the uneasy sense that Arnauti would have seen through the multiple and 
contradictory ruses of Justine and others?

The narrator of The Good Soldier asks, "If for nine years I have possessed a 
goodly apple that is rotten at the core and discover its rottenness only in 
nine years and six months less four days, isn't it true to say that for nine 
years I possessed a goodly apple?"  Epistemologically speaking, aren't the 
events and character histories of Justine as Darley conveys them "true"?  If 
only the third novel had been written as Arnauti's metacommentary on 
Balthazar's metacommentary on the manuscript of Justine!  That is, if 
Arnauti would only tell me once and for all how to feel about Darley's 
incalculable misapprehension of the world around him...

You see, through the bungled accounts of the unreliable narrator I glimpse a 
reliable counterpart and instinctively want to join him in the stands.

Alejandro Adams

(I want to add, self-consciously, that I'm not sure how free the list is 
intended to be in terms of the scope of a single post.  I realize there is 
much to be gained from sticking to a "Justine 1.1" structure, and I'll 
gladly accept any due censure.)

More information about the ILDS mailing list