[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- madness on Cyprus

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Fri Jul 13 07:17:39 PDT 2007

On 7/13/2007 9:48 AM, Michael Haag wrote:
> this book from which Durrell emerges as an exceptionally generous and 
> humane figure.
As I have written in my previous postings, I agree with Michael's 
insistence that /Bitter Lemons/ is a humane book and Durrell as a humane 
author.  What a year was 1957, to quote David.

And 1957 is just the point.  /Justine /and /Bitter Lemons/ appear, along 
with other Durrell books not quite of their caliber and interest. 

My question:  Setting aside questions of genre for the moment, how does 
the voice of Darley in /Justine /relate to the voice of Lawrence Durrell 
in /Bitter Lemons/?   Although these voices do have some aspects in 
common, I cannot think we would be careful if we called them identical.

I think that in /Bitter Lemons/ Durrell speaks with a kind of knowledge 
and judgment that Darley has yet to learn.  Durrell in /Bitter Lemons 
/sounds quick, tested, observant, wary of too much romanticizing.  His 
descriptions of place seem more anchored, clear-eyed, frank in their 
encounters with striking places and their beauty.  (The approach to 
Bellapaix and the tour of the house come to mind.)  Thinking back to 
Darley and /Justine /from our present position in /Bitter Lemons/ sets 
that earlier book in a distinctive relief.

I suppose I am pointing out the obvious--that /Bitter Lemons/ is written 
in a voice that speaks with an achieved maturity, with what I will call 
a vision of the world grounded comedy and wisdom.  Those are attainments 
that I do not identify at all with the romantic Brother Ass or his 
beautiful, evocative, and romantic book, /Justine/. 

If Darley and the Durrell of /Bitter Lemons/ met on some island, what 
would they have to say about each other?  Would they be able to 
understand their shared situations, two writer working out the aftermath 
of old loves while the world around them went down, down, down?

Again, I am keeping in mind that /Justine /germinated for long years in 
notebook and drafts.  The traces of the artist as the young man remain 
in its pages.   And that gives it another sort of value and pleasure.

All from one writer, published in a year.


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

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