[ilds] baboonism

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Sat Jul 7 17:19:13 PDT 2007

Whether or not one initially read Prospero's Cell as a journal, it 
would hardly come as a blow to discover that on 19 October 1937 Durrell 
did not actually enter into his notebook that observation about winter 
quarters for consuls during the wars between Macedon and Rome.  The 
journal is a device which serves Durrell's ruminations, his delivering 
up of history, folklore, weather conditions, philosophy, his enjoyment 
and feeling for the place, for those years, for his youth, and to 
contrast that with impinging events, events that in fact have already 
come to pass by the time he completes his book.  It achieves that 
beautifully and rings true.

Bitter Lemons also rings true, and indeed here Durrell has a much more 
critical audience as he is dealing with public events with which the 
original readers of the book were aware, sometimes participated in.  
Some may not like his point of view, but he is not just making things 
up.  It is remarkable how often the 'characters', including the unnamed 
characters, including some you would swear had been created for effect, 
are real and identifiable people, and who uttered the thoughts given 
them in the book.

In both cases, Prospero and Bitter Lemons, and in Marine Venus too, 
Lawrence Durrell is there.  Always the same man.  Moving through time 
and from place to place, reflecting on his experiences.  I trust 
Durrell in this, and through that I have learnt a few things.


On Sunday, July 8, 2007, at 12:13  am, James Gifford wrote:

> Bruce,
> It may be a 'postmodern move' (whatever that means), but the Durrell of
> his autobiographical travel narratives is certainly a character, often
> with very little in common with what the biographical author actually
> got up to.  Case in point -- the journal of _Prospero's Cell_ is a
> created artifact.  The characters of _Bitter Lemons_ are explicitly
> called characters, which is a tip off for me...  The shorter works are
> largely invented as well.
> I don't trust Durrell for 'truth' when I read him -- I enjoy the ride
> instead.  Fiction is, by its very nature, a lie.  It took me a while to
> get over my frustrations with Durrell for that, but I think it was
> struggle that was useful, at least for me and my development as a 
> reader.
> Best,
> James
> Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Bill, I guess I'm just too naive and trusting.  I don't worry about 
>> ontology and finding the real LD.  I don't much worry about authorial 
>> masks and personae (the old New Criticism concern), particularly when 
>> dealing with non-fiction.  These kinds of intricate games I leave to 
>> the academy, which makes a profession out of such things.  I take the 
>> "me" of paragraph two pretty much at face value.  I hear and see 
>> Lawrence Durrell speaking.  He will, of course, occasionally invent, 
>> transpose, tell a fib, even plagiarize, but I like to think he's 
>> usually doing it in good faith, for whatever personal reason or just 
>> in the interest of telling a good story.  Don't we all do that?  Why 
>> not give the guy the same break?
>> As to Montaigne, I'm thinking of his skepticism and the agility of 
>> his mind.  Also his use of history and classical sources.  Although 
>> Montaigne doesn't travel, his mind and imagination ranges through 
>> time and history and view the present through that lens.  Which 
>> Durrell also does.  Do we ask what Montaigne's standards are, aside 
>> from such broad categories as skepticism?  I think not.  I put him in 
>> the same category as Shakespeare (in fact, that's how I got 
>> introduced to him -- in a Shakespeare course!).  I owe much to you 
>> academics.
>> Bruce

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