[ilds] hyphens and posts...

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Tue Jul 10 16:29:34 PDT 2007


 > Questions explore.  Postcolonial theory imposes
 > answers; it is a catechism which serves to
 > instil an ideology.
 >
 > :Michael

I hear an "amen" implicit in the place of your signature...  And where 
are your questions or explorations of postcolonial theory?  Perhaps we'd 
be better served by asking about how those questions (or some suggested 
answers) work with _Bitter Lemons_?  That discussion would certainly be 
categorized by the bibliographer as "postcolonial," but I'd rather 
pragmatically turn to a discussion that might yield fruit.  Without a 
warrant, a point of shared interests or values, bold statements 
communicate virtually nothing.

I personally don't hear Durrell lamenting the demise of Imperialism, but 
I'm ready to be proven wrong.  Typically, when I read his works my 
impression is of an author (autobiographical subject, manipulator of 
scenes, selector of words, etc.) who is keenly aware of the details of 
imperialism yet also deeply ambivalent.  That's one of the reasons I 
enjoy "Oil for the Saint" -- that and it's short enough to fit into a 
first year course as a story...  Durrell knew full well that Empire gave 
the circumstances in which a Jane Austen could write (all that tea, 
sugar, those gardens, and characters made wealthy by foreign 
investments); yet, he was not in that luxury and did not live in the 
bosom of empire.

I still think we've moved too quickly past the eastern landfall and Suez 
Canal, which prefigure the entire book by virtue of the epigrams. 
_Bitter Lemons_ overlaps with _Justine_ in provocative ways, which 
Michael has shown nicely.  Yet, if we are to (daringly) overlap the 
semi-autobiographical narrative with the fictional novel, what then 
happens if we compound the topical attention to the Suez Crisis with the 
backdrop of Egypt in _Justine_.  The timeline is out, but the 
representations gain a context.  I think we'd start to wonder if any of 
Durrell's books can support his claim of not being political.

And, while it may be a subset (or a tool) of postcolonial theory, I'm 
very certain that Durrell fully understood the intricacies and politics 
of representation.  The Greeks are cartoons, the Turks are lizards, the 
English are stuffy, and everyone fits an image that supports a political 
mandate -- AND, I'm sure Durrell was well aware of that when he chose to 
cast them all that way.  The real questions are why he chose to do so; 
would his audience have been fully comfortable with that; does the book 
implicitly support British control of Cyprus; where is it satiric; and 
do the stereotypes of each group actually fulfill themselves or are they 
eventually subverted?

I also don't think we've dug to the bottom of Durrell's politics yet. 
Michael -- how closely do your notions of Old D's politics line up with 
your own?  I don't mean that in a nasty way but with genuine curiosity. 
  I don't politically agree with many people, so I'm fairly sure I have 
an author wrong until I disagree with him or her...  We know he was 
critical of socialism, communism, what we might call corporatism, 
monopolistic capitalism, and was glad to be published by Tories or 
anarchists, so long as he wasn't turned to their purposes.  So far as I 
know, he wanted money from the Tories and didn't mention it with the 
libertarians, but that slew of terms has already distressed the notion 
of a binary Left and Right.  Perhaps it's better to suggest Durrell was 
untidy in his political affiliations and very likely changed his views 
over time, as most everyone does, but that he was exceptionally aware of 
the politics of representation.

Why, then, did he choose the representations he did?  How do they 
function?  Is the cyclops comic right to the end?

Best,
James

Michael Haag wrote:
> These are interesting questions and worth following in the literature, 
> etc. But these are indeed questions, not the constructs of a theory (as 
> Richard has himself pointed out in another posting). Questions explore. 
> Postcolonial theory imposes answers; it is a catechism which serves to 
> instil an ideology.
> 
> :Michael


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