[ilds] RG 1.6 -- the narrator meets Justine

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Sun Apr 29 11:18:42 PDT 2007

I would also like to mention that I have the sense, reading these 
sections, that Darley is being led into Alexandria.  The whole thing is 
a seduction.  Durrell is seducing his reader.  Darley is being seduced 
by Justine.  But most of all Alexandria is seducing everybody.  After 
the lecture at the Atelier [1.16], Darley goes across the Rue Fuad to a 
grocers where he buys a tin of Italian olives -- 'overcome by a sudden 
longing to be on the right side of the Mediterranean'.  'I began to eat 
Italy.'  Then Justine walks in and 'unable to disentangle myself from 
Italy I looked up boorishly and saw her leaning down at me from the 
mirrors on three sides of the room, her dark thrilling face full of a 
troubled, arrogant reserve'.  Darley quickly forgets about the Italian 


On Sunday, April 29, 2007, at 07:05  pm, Michael Haag wrote:

> 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.
> :Michael
> 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.
>> CLS
>> -- 
>> **********************
>> Charles L. Sligh
>> Department of English
>> Wake Forest University
>> slighcl at wfu.edu
>> **********************
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