[ilds] Jewish cemetery

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sat Jun 16 21:27:01 PDT 2007


> Coming across his father's grave in the Jewish
> cemetery -- Nessim, of course, has come across the
> grave of Balthazar's father.  Nessim is a Copt and his
> father would not be buried in the Jewish cemetery.

This is the oddity, and my first inclination when I puzzled at it was to
assume it was Balthazar's father -- I assume Michael is right in his
surmise, but the language still troubles me in this section.  I wonder if
the indeterminacy is deliberate given Nessim's unclear state or if this
might reflect a previous potentiality in the drafts of the text.

Here's what I mean.  Durrell is discussing Nessim seeing Balthazar's
treatise in that moment in the text (a book I'd like to hear more about).
Yet, the "he" and "himself" in that paragraph refer to Nessim...  If we
didn't know what we do of Nessim from the later books, how would we read
that fourth pronoun?  The three preceding pronouns have Nessim as the
antecedent, as do the three proceeding pronouns.  I think almost any
unfamiliar reader would make the reasonable assumption that this "his" for
the grave refers to Nessim.  Only this middle pronoun could be problematic,
based on our knowledge that Nessim is Coptic, which makes me wonder...  Was
Nessim ever Jewish in the drafts?

At any rate, this *does* leave us with Nessim wandering around a Jewish
graveyard looking at the names on the headstones and obscured by pronoun use
-- this odd behaviour might be explained by his state of mind, but it is
still striking.  I suspect some element of the Menasce family has crept in
here, no matter which way we take the scene, and that's a topic Michael
would be far better able to discuss than I am.  We may, however,
___________________________
James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria
Victoria, B.C., Canada
http://web.uvic.ca/~gifford
 need to wait for the book to address that topic...

Cheers,
James




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