[ilds] RG 1.6 -- the narrator meets Justine

Beatrice Skordili bskordil at otenet.gr
Sun Apr 29 10:54:46 PDT 2007

The narrator plays tricks on the reader. A couple of times in the beginning he mentions Justine, but he goes on to discuss Melissa. The woman "walking idly towards the town in her white sandals" "yawning" is not Justine, but Melissa who has just woken up from her afternoon nap, because she works at night. It picks up from 1.4 when the narrator describes her night "assignations" with men. Only at 1.10 starting "I have had many glimpses of her" does the narrator start describing Justine. The transition from 1.9 to 1.10 as well as the similarity with "I used to see her" and "I saw her daily" in 1.8 which refer to Melissa create a very intentional confusion between the two women.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Michael Haag 
  To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
  Sent: Sunday, April 29, 2007 4:51 AM
  Subject: Re: [ilds] RG 1.6 -- the narrator meets Justine

  This entire run, from 1.10 to 1.16, is beautifully worked around two of Cavafy's poems, indeed it is imbued with Cavafy associations. First in 1.10 there is 'the afternoon sun', which is a Cavafy poem, and a few lines down Darley goes to his balcony where he catches sight of Justine, a reference picked up again at the end of 1.15 when Justine quotes 'In the Evening' -- both 'The Afternoon Sun' and 'In the Evening' being exquisite poems of loss, of love affairs long since gone, of memory transmuted into place. 


  On Sunday, April 29, 2007, at 01:25 am, william godshalk wrote:

    When the narrator gives his lecture on "the native poet of the city," he notes that "one solitary student of the passions and the arts" sits in the back of the hall, "her legs crossed in a mannish attitude" (1.16). But he apparently does not recognize her as Justine.

    But the narrator has made it quite evident that he knows Justine by sight. From his balcony he catches sight of her "walking idly towards the town in her white sandals." At another time, perhaps, she "passes below" his "window, smiling as if at some private satisfaction" (1.10). He further claims that he had "many such glimpses of her at different times, and of course I knew her well by sight long before we met (1.11). He claims that anyone who earns more than 200 pounds a year relinquishes all anonymity in Alexandria -- and he recounts some of the times he has seen her. To make matters doubly clear that the reader gets the point, the narrator writes: "I knew them [Justine and Nessim] by sight many months before we actually met -- as I knew everyone in the city" (1.16).

    Surely there's a mystery here. The narrator insists that he knows Justine by sight, and then, when he sees her at his lecture, he doesn't seem to recognize her. Why not?

    And when Justine gets him home, she races to Nessim "like a gun-dog" metaphorically dropping the narrator at Nessim's feet, wagging her tale. "She had achieved me" (1.16). The narrator comments: "I did not know for what purpose I had been brought here" (1.16).

    In Justine does the narrator and the reader ever know the "purpose"?

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