[ilds] Corfu memoirs &

James Gifford gifford at uvic.ca
Wed Jul 4 09:54:55 PDT 2007

I've always been troubled by how Nancy was 'silenced' in _Prospero's
Cell_, and I can see a gender bias potentially running through
Durrell's works (think of Hilda in -The Black Book_, contemporary to
the Corfu years, but then what about Constance?).  Yet, I'm also
partly aware of Durrell preference for keeping his home life private.
Written years later and after a divorce, he chose to subltly minimize
her presence and Gerald chose not to refer to her at all.  It may
simply be tactful.  Better leave the rest unsaid...

Moreover, this isn't a single instance for Durrell.  Where is Eve in
_Bitter Lemons_, Claude and Sappho in "Oil for the Saint," or the less
prominant presence in  _Reflections on a Marine Venus_?  Rather than
censoring or weakening female voices, I suspect Durrell may have
simply preferred not to intrude on their private lives or not make
them public -- nonetheless, it is intriguing that while he included
several male friends by name, he lists virtually no females (wives,
lovers, or friends) in his travel books as participating in the
significant discussions.  Leaving his private life aside, that seems
like a discontinuity between the fiction and the pseudo-non-fiction.
In the fiction the role of women is confused but hardly 'weak' -- I'm
never sure where to place those text along a spectrum from feminist to
misogynist, but I don't think it slots into just one place very
comfortably, skipping back & forth from one end to the other at
different moments, even within the same text.  But, isn't that true of
so many authors?


On 04/07/07, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Yes, she's there in the backgound, but not prominent, as eerie as Kafka's habit of identifying a character by a single letter (K. im SchloB).
> Bruce
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: slighcl <slighcl at wfu.edu>
> >Sent: Jul 4, 2007 7:10 AM
> >To: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> >Subject: Re: [ilds] Corfu memoirs & "N."
> >
> >On 7/4/2007 9:54 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> >
> >>She's not much of a presence in Prospero's Cell either, as I dimly recall.
> >>
> >Nancy of course appears under the sign of "N." in /Prospero's Cell/, and
> >at least for this reader that enigmatic initial has always made her more
> >magnetic and, strangely, more present.
> >
> >I will recall here that (at least in the account given in /Prospero's
> >Cell/) it is "N." who decides to build "a garden on the rock outside the
> >house"--"the design is N.'s."  And it is "N." who purchases and
> >christens the cutter, the "Van Norden."
> >
> >And this image permanently tattoos "N." upon my memory in its power:
> >
> >        The windows give directly on to the sea[. . . .] By day it runs
> >        golden on the ceilings, reflecting back the bright peasant
> >        rugs--a ship, a gorgon, a loom, a cypress tree; reflecting back
> >        the warm crude pottery of our table; reflecting back N. now
> >        brown-skinned and blonde, reading in a chair with her legs
> >        tucked under her.  Calm eyes, calm hair, and clear white teeth
> >        like those of a young carnivore.  As Father Nicholas says: "What
> >        more does a man want than an olive-tree, a native island, and
> >        [a] woman from his own place?"
> >
> >Charles
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James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria

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