[ilds] recent work on LD's Irishness and Egypt

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Oct 29 15:02:54 PDT 2007


Hello all,

In line with our recent discussion of Antrobus, I've recently spotted 
this delightful piece.

Mary Massoud's recent chapter on Durrell's Irishness (a much debated 
topic here that probably doesn't bear revisiting) makes a striking claim 
about the Quartet's use of Alexandria, which cuts into the thick of the 
debates over Durrell's inaccurate images of Egypt:

"It hardly seems credible that Durrell who (according to his 
biographers) had lived and worked in Alexandria for some time and had a 
number of Alexandria friends, could have committed such grave errors out 
of mere ignorance, carelessness or dishonesty.  Indeed his own 
confession (in a prefatory note to _Justine_) of having 'exercised a 
novelist's right in taking a few necessary liberties with modern Middle 
Eastern History', makes one suspect he knew better.  Was Durrell, then, 
deliberately throwing dust in the reader's eyes when he twice asserted 
... that the city is real?  And if so, to what purpose?"  (377-8)

I have to agree with the provocation her question makes.  I do disagree 
with her sense of the word "real," which I take as a gesture against 
Eliot's "Unreal" cities, especially in Liddell's book of Alexandria: 
_Unreal City_.

Yet, Massoud's contention would seem to prompt us to look at other texts 
that might suggest "to what purpose" the 'unreality' of Durrell's 'real' 
city might turn.  I think there's a good case in stating he's following 
his paratext, Forster's _Alexandria_ (Michael may have much to say on 
this), but I don't think the Europeans in the novel fully escape the 
satire seen in Antrobus.  Are any of the Europeans effective?

Also, since Massoud's comments turn on "the bizarre suggestion that 
Copts ... regard the creation of Israel as a boon to Middle Eastern 
Christians," I think Michael has already outlined "to what purpose" 
through reference to Claude's family.  There was purpose indeed...

Best,
James


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