[ilds] Justine, before the Duck Shoot

Edward Hungerford eahunger at charter.net
Sun Jun 17 21:44:07 PDT 2007

I am submitting a rather long-ish discussion of some of the pages that 
precede the duck shoot in Justine.   ---See below.   Ed Hungerford.
On 6/15/2007 1:21 PM, william godshalk wrote:

We have mentioned the duck shoot briefly -- and then the ducks done
disappeared. Am I wrong in believing that most Durrellians think the
shoot is the climax of the novel? Or if not the climax, then one of
the most important parts of the novel?

   My  Response    (EAH)  The duck shoot is perhaps the climax of the 
novel if it is perceived as an action novel.   But this is really not 
my understanding of the type of fiction that Durrell  was writing.   
Yes, the duck shoot brings everything together in a sense, and allows 
the reader to feel that  'something has happened.'

But why is it important?
---------------------------------------------------- In the discussion 
group,   we arrived at the duck shoot before I knew there had been a 
discussion of the previous 50 pages, --   Was there such as discussion?

In my Dutton pb edition of Justine (1961) from the 1957 impression, 
(presumably a reprint),  Part III starts on  p. 147.   Darley is 
beginning to convince himself that Justine is in love with him,  etc.)  
  The more frequent and intense their love making, the text seems to 
indicate,  the more it is leading us to learn of Nessim’s temporary 
madness.  (see pp. 185-6.)
   There should have been logically, a series of asterisks at page 192, 
beginning with  the paragraph : “When the time for the great yearly 
shoot on Lake Mareotis came round Nessim began to experience a magical 
sense of relief. “

 From here, a quite interesting cross-cutting of scenes [episodes, or 
whatever, that last until page 208]--–interior monologues, some of 
them,  and remembered scenes—occurs between Darley and Justine’s love 
making, and their awareness of Nessim’s intense jealousy, which  may 
lead him to desperate acts, perhaps to the murder of Darley at the time 
of the Duck Shoot.  Such scenes more or less “at the present time,”  
have been  interlarded, sometimes a few paragraphs at a time, with 
memories (and even Nessim’s Diary notes !!)  of the affair between 
Nessim and Melissa, which presumably results in the birth of Melissa’s 
    It is especially this section of cross-cutting in Darley’s 
narration, pp. 185-207, prior to the actual day of the duck shoot, that 
I feel is one of the most important segments of the entire novel, and 
indeed a part of the story telling which makes cross reference to the 
same scene,---which is there much expanded, in Mountolive.  People on 
this list will probably recall that this series of scenes in Justine  
includes the very important –[certainly  to Durrell, who repeated the 
exact words in both Justine and MO--]  exchange between Melissa and 
Pursewarden on the dance floor  of her workplace café.

	 The duck shoot narration, sometimes called a Set Piece by those 
writing about the AQ,  lends pace and considerable strong interest in 
the story, that is, the substitute for a plot, and entertains all of us 
as readers.  Nevertheless, are we not to consider the whole of the AQ 
as a form of psychological novel?   My point is of course that the 
playing off in these specific pages of Justine  keeps the reader on 
track of the interiority, the mental interchange among the four main 
characters Nessim, Justine, Melissa, and Darley.  To those of us who 
admit to a willing suspension of disbelief, we learn all this from the 
ingenious ability of the still unnamed Darley to use Arnauti’s Moeurs, 
Justine’s Diaries, even Nessim’s Diary, not to mention recollections of 
Balthazar and others, including  reports of conversations that would 
have been unknown to Darley if he had not had almost miraculous 
knowledge thru the various written texts that he brought to his Greek 
island, in order to piece his former life, and the lives of the several 
other characters involved in that period of Darley’s life,  together 

	  When Melissa says the eight words to Nessim,  “Your wife is no 
longer faithful to you,”  (p. 198) she sets in motion  much else that 
immediately follows.  (How did Darley obtain the knowledge of the exact 
words exchanged?  Did Melissa actually tell him?  Did Nessim’s Diary 
let him know this, or what are our other choices?)   Selim appears and 
invites Melissa for  a drive with Nessim,  pp. 199-200.

	“The glances he snatched at her enabled him to study her, and to study 
me in her.  Her loveliness must have disarmed and disturbed him as it 
had me, for her  afterwards described it as a beauty which filled one 
with the terrible premonition that it had been born to be a target for 
the forces of destruction.  It was with a shock that he remembered an 
anecdote of Pursewarden’s in which she figured, for the latter had 
found her as Nessim had done, in the same stale cabaret  …” (200).

   Students of fictional method:  Doesn’t it seem remarkable that Darley 
can  know exactly what each of them, Nessim  and Melissa, secretly 
thought in the enclosed  space of the automobile?    CONTINUE ;   “ … 
Pursewarden, who was gravely drunk, took her to the floor and, after a 
moment’s silence, addressed her in his sad yet masterful way: ‘Comment 
vous defendez-vous contre la solitude?’ he asked her.  Melissa  turned 
upon him an eye replete with all the candour of experience and replied 
softly:  ‘Monsieur je suis devenue la solitude meme’.   “   ( p. 201)

Compare  this to MOUNTOLIVE, NY, Dutton 1961 edition, chap. VIII,  
where the same scene is considerably expanded and placed in 
chronological order as in a realistic novel told by an omniscient 
narrator.   Cf.  Dutton, p. 167.   Pursewarden & Melissa begin on the 
dance floor;     “You are en forme,” she said.   The whole scene is 
much more lengthy here, than in Justine,  but  lower on p. 167:  
“Dancing again he said to her, but with drunken irony: ‘Melissa, 
comment vous defendez vous contre la solitude?’  Her response, for some 
queer reason, cut him to the heart.  She turned upon him an eye replete 
with all the candour of experience and replied softly:  ‘Monsieur, je 
suis devenue la solitude meme.’  …
A human barrier dissolved now and they found that they could talk 
freely to each other… ‘    (MO, 167-68.)  ---and in MO this scene is 
only the prelude to another 10 or 15 pages of Pursewarden and Melissa’s 
brief love affair.

	When any of you scholars are teaching the Quartet, do you emphasize 
these exchanges, or this dialogue?   I think that it can hardly be 
argued that Durrell just made a mistake in repeating the dialogue 
exactly as  it is said to have occurred, but   that LD undoubtedly 
meant for the reader to remember this scene, when reading the later 
novels in the Quartet,  and for us as readers to imagine the dialogue 
as a crucial , essential part of the Quartet’s psychological action.   
Ed  H

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