[ilds] Durrell & the Book

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed May 30 09:56:53 PDT 2007


Bill notes:

> My psychologist of thirteen years told me that I use my
> book collecting as a wall against death. He suggested I
> read Becker's The Denial of Death -- so I now have a
> first edition of that book in a very nice dust jacket.

Brilliant!  I actually had the extremely good fortune to study under one of
Becker's colleagues at Simon Fraser University (my alma mater).  As some of
you might know, I think there's an affinity to Durrell as well, mainly via
Rank and so forth.

Will your books make it into an archive some day, Bill?  Milan Kundera
recently described the archive as (I'm paraphrasing this) "The dream of
equality in a vast collective grave."  Given his tendency to proclaim his
ownership over the text, even after the reader has bought and paid for it
(and marginally marked it up), I find Kundera a compelling foil to Durrell,
though I suspect Kundera is the one who gets foiled...

I might add Kundera's other thoughts: "Against our real world, which, by its
very nature, is fleeting and worthy of forgetting, works of art stand as a
different world, a world that is ideal, solid, where every detail has its
importance."  There are a very great number of hesitating, qualifying commas
in that statement.  My suspicion is that Kundera's own 'death denying'
tendencies may be on display here, since only in the "vast collective grave"
of the archive can such a world continue to exist in contrast to the
"fleeting and worthy of forgetting" real world of mortality, and we must be
utterly fallacious in granting god-head to Milan in order to see providence
in "every detail ha[ving] its importance."

My suspicion is that an author such as LD would have none of that.  Even in
an untrustworthy interview he notes that once the book is out there in the
world, it takes on a life of its own.  I suspect Durrell knew he was going
to die, and like Djuna Barnes, he knew that everything he did came back to
the problem of having a button up his middle (not a comparison I make
flippantly), but authors such as Kundera refuse to admit to it.

Then again, my library's archives inform me that Kundera has been something
of a revisionist in the truth of his inner worlds...  Collective graves
indeed.

Best,
James




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