[ilds] Plagiarism - and Caesar's Vast Ghost

Durrell School of Corfu durrells at otenet.gr
Fri Jun 1 13:45:53 PDT 2007

As M H will know, (I'm sure) LD was, in ill-health, very much helped by Mary 
Byrne (is this in MacNiven? I dont have a copy to hand) in editing his CVG 
text into something that Fabers would accept. Most authors accept such help. 
I dont think the book requires too much textual criticism - just read it for 
its great text! - how much textual criticism is 'too much'?
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Haag" <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
To: <gifford at uvic.ca>; <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 10:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ilds] Plagiarism - and Caesar's Vast Ghost

> James has touched on a number of interesting points, but right now I
> will refer only to one -- the authorship of Caesar's Vast Ghost.
> In fact I raised the question of plagiarism (many moons ago, it seems
> now) because I was implicitly questioning how can one analyse and
> develop theories about a text when one does not know the origin and
> history of the text -- or how useful is such analysis and theorising
> without first establishing the authorship or authenticity of the text.
> Suppose there are parts of the Alexandria Quartet that were not written
> by Durrell at all?  Suppose Durrell never wrote Caesar's Vast Ghost?
> Seeing two pages of my own writing in Caesar's Vast Ghost immediately
> alerted me to this problem and led me to ask questions.  Was the
> inclusion of my text Durrell's own choice?  Or, more radically, did
> Durrell write Caesar's Vast Ghost at all?  And all the possibilities in
> between -- how much of it is his, how finished are those parts which
> may be his, who made the selection, who made the arrangement, etc.
> As it happens I have looked into this pretty thoroughly and have spoken
> to the suspects, starting with Durrell himself and working outwards,
> and I have also spoken with the relevant editors at Faber and Faber,
> and I have looked into Durrell's notebooks.  And I have a pretty good
> idea of Durrell's state of health and his awareness at the time, of the
> contractual circumstances, and so on.  In other words I have gone to
> original sources and have put the whole thing into context.
> Things written about Durrell which operate in a realm entirely detached
> from, indeed often contemptuous of, fundamental matters of authenticity
> are in my experience without interest or value.  Having said that, I am
> also aware that there are people who are very much doing primary work
> and whose thoughts arise out of that; the interest of what they are
> doing immediately stands out.  An awareness of very real contingencies
> affecting the creation of work, as for example James has set out below
> with regard to Caesar's Vast Ghost, is extremely important; it provides
> a touchstone for meaningful discussion of Durrell's work.
> :Michael
> On Friday, June 1, 2007, at 04:49  pm, James Gifford wrote:
>>  I think the authorship of _Caesar's Vast Ghost_ is
>> perhaps disputable as well...  I suspect ... [Durrell] had some very,
>> very substantial help in cobbling those
>> jottings together into the final volume.  My understanding is that the
>> draft
>> he sent to Faber was a mess of loose papers, and I heard a rumour he
>> had
>> help patching it together.  Given his last few years of hard drinking,
>> ill
>> health, and very likely a stroke ...  I find this neither surprising
>> nor significant.
>> _Caesar's Vast Ghost_ is not
>> Durrell's finest work, and I suspect the stitches holding it together
>> may
>> not even be his own, though there are some absolutely lovely passages
>> that
>> strike me as typical of something I'd find in his later notebooks.
>> That
>> some of those sections were transcriptions from things he liked
>> surprises me
>> not at all -- I actually wonder if he was the one who consciously
>> chose to
>> include them.
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