[ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

Durrell School of Corfu durrells at otenet.gr
Mon May 28 21:34:31 PDT 2007

The DSC did not 'indulge a liar' - that is a shocking accusation.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 7:19 AM
Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton

> What is striking about Eagleton is his lack of integrity.  It is
> dishonest to pretend to review a book one has not read.  The man's
> knowledge of Durrell and his works is clearly nil, and yet he is happy
> to lie his head off, and to do so publicly in the press, and to take
> money for being a liar.  Nothing wrong with listening to the views of
> those who are critical of Durrell, but to indulge a liar because one
> thinks he is a 'big name' is a shocking admission.
> :Michael
> On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, at 05:06  am, Durrell School of Corfu wrote:
>> We wanted a big name. You don't get an audience by billing the little
>> people. And I did it in spite of his negative attitude to LD - and he
>> came
>> here in spite..... But as I said (or should that be Said?) it was a
>> disappointment.
>> RP
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
>> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>> Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:09 AM
>> Subject: [ilds] RG Justine - Eagleton
>>> I have just read Eagleton's review of MacNiven's Durrell biography.
>>> Clearly Eagleton never read the book, nor has he the remotest idea of
>>> what Durrell's life or writings were about.  Eagleton is a jerk.  Why
>>> is a jerk like this presented at the Durrell School of Corfu?  I would
>>> like to hear Richard Pine explain that.
>>> :Michael
> Title: Supreme trickster.,  By: Eagleton, Terry,
> New Statesman, 13647431, 04/24/98, Vol. 127, Issue 4382
> Database: Academic Search Premier
> Ian MacNiven Faber & Faber, £25
> My old Cambridge tutor, a deeply traditionalist scholar, used to have a
> copy of Lawrence Durrell's novel Justine lying with casual
> deliberateness on his desk. The book looked suspiciously unthumbed. It
> was there as testimony to his (entirely spurious) avantgardeness, for
> in the early 1960s Durrell was one of the last words in high-brow
> literary experiment.
> These days Durrell is probably even less of a remembered name than his
> zoologist brother Gerald, suggesting that aardvarks linger longer in
> the public mind than the avant-garde. Whatever happened to this
> audacious aesthete?
> Justine is one of the volumes of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, a
> monument of fake exoticism and pseudo-profundity which some of us at
> the time mistook for great literature. It was an adolescent taste,
> rather in the way only 18 year olds regard Albert Camus as a great
> philosopher. In those years in Cambridge some of us saw ourselves as
> existentialists, which just meant that as frightened youngsters away
> from home we weren't feeling too chirpy. Today it is known in some
> quarters as post-structuralism. The brittle, hot-house preciousness of
> the Quartet lent itself wonderfully to parody: "The city is languid
> tonight, its mood half-churlish, halfremorseful. The sea glints a jaded
> mauve, wrinkled and knotted like the veined neck of a Lebanese
> brothel-keeper. Sipping his sherbert, Pelagius says that love is the
> stale morsel we are left with when desire lapses into memory."
> The Durrell who carved himself a literary colony out of Alexandria was
> himself the son of a colonialist. Born in India in 1912, the child of
> an affluent engineer, he spent the rest of his life drifting like a
> literary playboy from one fancy European hotel to another. Part of the
> fag-end of cosmopolitan modernism, he shacked up in Corfu, Athens,
> Egypt, Rhodes, Buenos Aires, Cyprus and France, changing wives almost
> as often as he changed countries. Some of this placeshifting was an
> attempt to keep one step ahead of the second world war, which he did
> his aestheticist best to ignore. While Hitler was on the rampage,
> Durrell was in search of a spot more sunshine. He despised politics,
> thought Marxists "synonymous with pigs and fools", and set his thoughts
> instead on the eternal.
> As a textbook bohemian, Durrell knocked around Paris with Henry Miller
> and Anais Nin, and loafed about London with Dylan Thomas and a few
> stray surrealists, while describing his own artistic tendency as
> "Durrealist". Loftily contemptuous at first oft S Eliot, he changed his
> opinion of him overnight when Eliot, then editor at Faber, published
> one of his novels. He ended up as a bored, taxevading semi-recluse,
> dying in London in 1990 just as he was about to launch yet another
> marriage. Samuel Johnson's comment on such marital ventures - "the
> triumph of hope over experience" - has rarely been more apt.
> Ian MacNiven has chronicled the flittings of this literary flaneur
> --"Larry" to him - in 700 pages of painstaking research. The book is a
> model of tenacious scholarship, but as Uma Thurman remarks to John
> Travolta in Pulp Fiction when he announces his need to take a pee:
> "That's just a little more information than I needed."
> The trouble with biographers is the dead-levelling way in which every
> scrap of information about their subject becomes as important as every
> other. The book resounds with the sound of a gnat being blasted by a
> Howitzer.
> Durrell once described himself as a "supreme trickster", and this is
> surely one reason why his celebrity proved so shortlived. The
> glittering surface of his prose conceals an emotional anaesthesia, for
> which the portentously "profound" reflections of the Quartet are meant
> to compensate. Like many poets, his verbal sensitivity is in inverse
> proportion to real human sympathy, a sublimated selfishness evident in
> his life as much as his work. What was real was what he could
> exoticise, convert to mythological archetype or high-sounding
> platitude. His Alexandria is a country of the mind, attractive
> precisely because its cultural and ethnic mix makes it at once nowhere
> and everywhere. If he plundered Egypt for its symbolic capital, he also
> groused about its "stinking inhabitants". His combination of elitism
> and aestheticism was finally outstripped by Nabokov, another rootless
> emigre who happened to possess a finer literary talent.
> Unlike Nabokov, Joyce and D H Lawrence, Durrell was on permanent
> vacation rather than in artistic exile. Perhaps because he had been
> born outside England, his work lacks that tension between home and
> abroad, the pains of expatriation as well as its creative
> possibilities, which marks his great modernist forebears. Whereas Joyce
> and Lawrence spent their lives on the run from cultural traditions they
> knew from the inside, Durrell never experienced them in the first
> place. Like his life, the overbred, cosmopolitan range of the Quartet
> conceals a cultural shallowness. MacNiven's naively uncritical
> narrative seems blind to this thinness, perhaps because, like many a
> biographer, he forgets to stand back from the trees to give us a
> glimpse of the wood. "To understand Lawrence Durrell," he admonishes
> us, "one must go to India, physically if possible..."; but this volume
> is quite expensive enough.
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