[ilds] RG 1.6 -- the narrator meets Justine

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Sun Apr 29 11:05:44 PDT 2007

What Charles says is true.  Nevertheless, from my quick reading (and 
not mapping out the sequences), there does indeed seem to be a 
discrepancy which I would put down to one of two things.  Either Darley 
does not recognise Justine because, as he says, she is sitting with her 
head down [1.16].  Or Durrell, after shuffling his deck and laying down 
his cards, did not notice or did not care.  Or maybe even did care and 
liked it that way because it would fit in with the uncertainty of 
memory and recording events.  For example, at the risk of over 
interpreting, I did mention Cavafy's poem The Afternoon Sun.  There is 
no real allusion to that poem except the phrase 'afternoon sun' [1.10] 
and the fact that the text goes on to mention Cavafy ('the old Greek 
poet') [1.15]; also to make a passing mention of 'the city' [1.15] 
(whether meant to resonate or not, but nevertheless the title of 
another Cavafy poem, and one of the two poems included at the back of 
Justine, the other being The God Abandons Antony); and finally the 
explicit reference to Cavafy's poem In the Evening [1.15] which is 
earlier alluded to, if you care to interpret the text that way, where 
the text reads 'This is the hour least easy to bear, when from my 
balcony ...' [1.10].  Now the point about both In the Evening and The 
Afternoon Sun, as I said earlier, is that they are poems of loss, 
memory, and locating the past in a present place, which The Afternoon 
Sun does with a note of hesitancy.

This room, how well I know it.
Now they're renting it, and the one next to it,
as offices.  ...

This room, how familiar it is.

The couch was here, near the door,
a Turkish carpet in front of it.
Close by, the shelf with two yellow vases.
On the right -- no, opposite -- a wardrobe with a mirror.

In both poems there is sunlight and light fading, the afternoon sun 
falling across the bed where they made love so many times, though the 
bed itself is long gone, and the light fading on the balcony as the old 
love letter is read and memories are stirred of 'what a magnificent bed 
we lay in'.

So if Durrell, or Darley, gets his memories and order of events a bit 
mixed up, it is all in keeping.


On Sunday, April 29, 2007, at 05:59  pm, slighcl wrote:

> On 4/29/2007 12:36 PM, william godshalk wrote:
> But how do you account for the apparent discrepancy? The narrator 
> makes it clear -- you might say "doubly clear" -- that he knows 
> Justine by sight and then does not identify her when she appears at 
> his lecture on Cavafy. I assume that he has not lost his glasses since 
> he just delivered a lecture.
> I will go back read the moments that you describe, map them out &c., 
> but all of this recalls to my mind the dynamic that has always 
> remained most memorable and signature for me in Justine.  The novel 
> starts in episodes 1.1 - 1.15 with the laying down of a whole rich 
> series of character-squeezes and images of privileged moments and 
> little epiphanies in dialogue--like faded photos or old phonograph 
> recordings or diary entires shuffled together--then with 1.16 
> something of a more traditional narrative style begins to assert 
> itself, moving forward briefly, then passing back so that we have the 
> narrator first meeting Melissa (1.24) only after he first meets 
> Justine (1.16)--disrupted chronology, time spilled out of its frame 
> like dazed quail.
> But while describing the conditions within which the narrator's claims 
> occur, all of this still does not answer your query, Bill.
> -- 
> **********************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> Wake Forest University
> slighcl at wfu.edu
> **********************
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