[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- suburbia, bars, and topers

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sun Jul 8 15:19:16 PDT 2007

On 7/8/2007 5:25 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:

>He feels at home because he's among fellow "topers," one of whom is "gorgeously drunk."  
I will note that throughout the works Durrell finds his fellowship in 
drink.  Already in /Bitter Lemons/ we have seen ouzo, wine, &c. save the 
day, preventing conflict and cementing alliances. 

Norman Douglas uses drink in a similar way in his books. 

Too bad we have lost this ritualized form of relating.   Bu there is not 
much hope that our presidents and preachers will heed us.  We live in 
latter days of increased Puritanism, east and west.  They want to bring 
us closer to their pale routinized gods and to make us live so much 
longer, but in what sort of world, gone grey and badly blanched?  I am 
thinking more of Swinburne's Hymn than of Weber.

>He also experiences some hostility at being English, but Greek hospitality towards strangers prevails.  However, he takes advantage of that hospitality by telling a boldfaced lie about his brother dying at Thermopylae.  Thereby outwitting the clever Greeks, those masters of intrigue, and demonstrating his superiority as an Englishman, albeit a self-admitted "perfidious" one.
As I drive, Isaac and I are listening to Ian McKellen read Fagles' 
translation of the /Odyssey/.  It is so good to revisit Odysseus again.  
He was my big hero in high school.  A role model.  Not to be the fastest 
or the most beautiful or even the smartest, but rather to excel by 
maximizing what resources you do have at hand.  And if to be like 
Odysseus defines Greek nature in the Western tradition, then wily 
Durrell "outwits" the Greeks by being more Greek.

>The scene is dramatic, funny, and perfectly timed.  Did it happen?  Could it have happened?  Does that make a difference?  
I will enjoy it either way.  What does Browning say about Troy in 
"Development"?  Ah, here we are--"no dream's worth waking."

Knowing Durrell, we are witnessing high story-telling at work here.  
Thus the perfect timing that you correctly note, Bruce.  This story 
about Clito's is all too like a drinking tale about drinking.

Now to it!


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

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