[ilds] Time and Justine

Ilyas Khan ilyas.khan at crosby.com
Sat Jun 2 12:15:30 PDT 2007

Charles, in the note below you ask people about Justine ­ and how they read
now compared to their first encounter. You also make the point about the
rhythm and ³music² that appeals now more than simple narrative or even (dare
I say it) plot.

I first picked up the quartet when I was in my late teens. The impact was
immediate, and even now there is more than a trace of tangible memory.
Picking up a particular version of the quartet is almost as bitter sweet as
hearing a song or seeing some old sepia stained photograph.

Like many others I also continue to be amazed at how much I missed (or maybe
how much has since been revealed) through the text over the years. I have
gotten into the habit of revisiting the quartet after a period of time, and
most recently (prompted by getting up the nerve to be more active on this
email list) I¹ve lost myself in Justine and Balthazar over the past couple
of weeks.

Some of my fellow members of the list might identify with this small example
of the pleasure of revisiting the quartet. I remember once going through the
book, methodically noting down those words that I did not understand, and
being mature enough (and sensible enough ?) to organise my reading so that I
could go back and appreciate the writing as it was meant to be understood. I
must have been 21, I think, and words such as ratiocinative, integument
hebetude, paturition and the luciously addictive crepuscular (³.......dense
crepuscular evening²) first made their introduction into my vocabulary when
I still had hair enough to wear it to my shoulders.

Knowing what will happen in the coming paragraphs and pages has not (yet...)
made my pilgrimages any less enjoyable.

Oh yes, Charles, one thing that I think is probably a bit different from
you, is that my reading tends to be of the books as a whole, rather than
forays into specfic parts from time to time. That must, I believe, have some
impact on our appreciation and perception of the story being told.


On 5/30/07 5:14 AM, "slighcl" <slighcl at wfu.edu> wrote:

> On 5/29/2007 3:57 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Way back on 5/25/07, aeons of discourse ago, Ed Hungerford wrote a query
>> about time in Justine.  He found some difficulties or inconsistencies in
>> Durrell's time scheme.  Despite the Quartet being about "space and time," I'm
>> beginning to think Durrell was just being careless, not in the negligent
>> sense, but literally he "cared not" about the Fourth Dimension.  Which is
>> really my sense of time in the Quartet.  It's really quite timeless,
>> strangely timeless, which is not the right word, maybe something closer to
>> atemporality in the midst of a particular spot in time.  Anyone else feel
>> this way?
> I will agree that in the sense that at this later stage in my reading of
> Justine I tend to allow it all to be pretty impressionistic, to enjoy the
> novel as a tidelike wash of flux and reflux.  I used to go in for sleuthing
> and mapping out the intricacies of narrative and time.  That attracts me less
> these days.   So when Justine and Darley  pause at the Summer Palace in order
> to discuss Pursewarden's suicide as if we all already understood what had
> happened, I note the momentary trembling of my curiosity and unknowing but
> then go right back to the immediate moment.   (The art of pretence: as if I
> had not been right there before.)
> Some of that preference comes from a surfeit of -ims--whether modernism,
> postmodernism, or what have you.   I simply could not hear and enjoy Justine
> anymore.  Some of that preference is an aesthetic sensibility shaped by my
> preference for poetry over narrative fiction.  When I read for my own
> pleasure, I do not require that Justine has anything more than music for me.
> Sometimes I discover that a sound and shape washes up some surprising notion,
> carried into the text from Durrell's readings in history or philosophy or
> letters.   If I pick up some line or phrase that catches my fancy in that way,
> a little piece of drift carried to me out from the "real world," I know that I
> can turn to a number of scholars, historians, and biographers who can help me
> understand as need be.  There is much good work there, and I am pleased to
> know some of those workers.
> I know that you and others will recognize the following passage, Bruce, but
> what I am talking about in regard to how I read Justine today in 2007 (versus
> 1997 or 1987) stems from my interest in Durrell's Aesthetic, his (early)
> characteristic style and sensibility of words, and my attempt to forget a
> great deal of clutter that I have gone through.  Does anyone else recall
> Durrell's best chapter opening?
>>>> The sea's curious workmanship: bottle-green glass sucked smooth and porous
>>>> by the waves: vitreous shells: wood stripped and cleaned, and bark swollen
>>>> with salt: a bead: sea-charcoal, brittle and sticky:  fronds of
>>>> bladder-wart with their greasy marine skin and reptilian feel: rocks,
>>>> gnawed and rubbed: sponges, heavy with tears: amber: bone: the sea.
>>>> ("Ionian Profiles," Prospero's Cell)
> Again, that is what I value as pattern and craft and sensibility when I read
> Justine and Prospero's Cell &c. for pleasure in 2007.  It is in a sense an
> extension of my current concentration on tracking and editing Durrell's
> composition process for the Quartet in notebook, typescript, and print.  It is
> at present somewhat willfully myopic--my other teaching and writing centers on
> Victorian Poetry, not modernist texts--and it in no way precludes the other
> approaches to reading and discussing Durrell.   For example, I am most
> interested at all times in what Jamie and Beatrice and Michael teach me when
> we meet and talk.   None of them pursues Durrell in quite the same way.   I
> think what I value is ardency and focus and whatever opens up the
> conversation, rather than closes it.
> I would be interested to hear how other readers of Durrell have found their
> reading experiences to change over time.  My twenty-years is not so very long
> compared to most of you.  Bruce has spoken of reading Durrell in a 1958
> moment.  Who else?  Ed?  Brewster?  Ilyas? Anna? What is it all about for you
> now?
> Charles

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