[ilds] Durrell's verbal style -- more questions

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue Jun 12 17:47:58 PDT 2007

On 6/12/2007 8:08 PM, william godshalk wrote:

> I will offer a challenge. In the past few weeks, we have found that 
> some of the material that Durrell uses on pages 177-179 is taken from 
> Rex Warner's translation of Xenophon.
> (1) Before learning this, did any of you find this passage in 
> /Justine/ different from the surrounding material? 

*Yes.  Always.  Without a doubt.  Some of my favorite prose in 
/Justine/.  And I enjoy your discovery of the Xenophon source because I 
was reading /Justine /and the /Anabasis /at the same early age.  
(Penguin gave me both!)  Just think, the hidden connections between 
those books were gestating all these twenty-something years, waiting for 
Bill Godshalk to midwife.*

> Did anyone think that Durrell was here appropriating material from 
> another writer?

*No.  I had at most thought that Durrell was adopting a tone, a style, a 

> (2) I imagine that some members of this list didn't pay strict 
> attention to this find. If you didn't, could you read these pages and 
> distinguish between Durrell's prose and Warner's? In what ways are 
> they different in style?

*I paid strict attention to your find.  Even on a train passing through 
the Belgian countryside.  Glow-worm express.*

> (3) If you feel that Durrell integrated Warner's prose into his prose, 
> could you explain the integration process? What does Durrell add, 
> remove, or modify to make Warner into Durrell?

   1. *"Their enemies were of a breath-taking elegance"  -- That is pure
      Durrell and is a kind of acknowledgment of what he is up to. 
      Although much of the description of armour &c. comes from Warner's
      translation of Xenophon, Durrell begins by glossing Warner,
      copying down Warner's words and glossing them, critiquing them,
      and elevating them through his imaginative engagement.*
   2. *"With a column on the march memory becomes an industry,
      manufacturing dreams which common ills unite in a community of
      ideas based upon privation."  -- Durrell loves opening a paragraph
      with this sort of eighteenth-century period--pithy, confident
      statements of knowledge that he delivers to an audience expected
      to nod in agreement.  Think about /Prospero's Cell/:  "It is a
      sophism to imagine that there is any strict dividing line between
      the waking world and the world of dreams."  World-wisdom.*
   3. *"He opened memory to his consciousness royally, prodigally, as
      one might open a major artery." -- That would have to be Durrell. 
      In /Justine /and in the poetry arteries and veins abound,
      especially in conection with thoughts of impending suicide. 
      Antony, Cleo, the whole sick crew.*

> (4) Or would you argue that Durrell knew that Warner's style was like 
> his own, and D would have to change very little to integrate Warner's 
> prose?

I don't know.  I have been revisiting the Warner translation on Amazon, 
which offers a concordance, an index of unusual phrases and a searchable 
text.  I will tell you if Durrell's ghost confesses to my cast of the 
digital planchette.*


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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