[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 1, Issue 86_Expats and colonialism

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Fri Apr 27 10:56:49 PDT 2007


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Message: 7
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 08:48:51 -0400
From: "Anna Lillios" <lillios at mail.ucf.edu>
Subject: Re: [ilds] Fw: ILDS Digest, Vol 1, Issue 84_Mirrors_Message:

Durrell and his British expats used to hang out at the Cecil Hotel in
Alexandria.  Its lobby was filled with mirrors.


                                     --Anna

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Thank you Anna. This is informative as far as the subject of mirrors in
Alexandria is concerned and also suggests much about the British
expatriates.

But it incidentally leads to a serious question which arises in relation to
Justine and the AQ, i.e., to what extent is the AQ mainly about British and
European expats?

I believe the AQ has been referred to as "post-colonial" literature - or
should it be "colonial" literature? I remember reading that Lawrence Durrell
referred to himself once as a "literary blimp", suggesting, it seems, that
he looked upon himself as a colonial in attitude. In fact, if one were to
look at the subject matter of the AQ, a lot of it deals with womanising
expatriate Englishmen (Darley, Pursewarden) or Frenchmen (Pombal for one)
whose presence in Alexandria was transitory.

I think Edward Said referred to the subject matter of the AQ as "trivial"
and one can see why! Is Darley's relationship with Melissa anything more
than "...what we wanted of each other..." [Justine (1.4)]? And what was
that? It is not clear, but can a complex relationship be contained in such a
phrase? At first reading, there is an innocence and an element of poetry in
the lines of this section - but how does it appear on reflection about the
social situation - an Englishman having a fling with a deprived Greek woman?
And the Englishman (however indigent) is a member of the ruling colonial
power in Alexandria.

And what do you make of the following passage [Justine (1.12)]:

"Some of these encounters with poor exhausted creatures driven to extremity
by want are interesting, even touching,..."

"...encounters...are interesting.."???!!! It is as if Durrell had
unthinkingly let slip a crass and cynical comment, but it is a comment which
is revealing, and what it reveals is not very nice!

Sumantra Nag



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