[ilds] Alexandria: From Nasser to Lawrence Durrell

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Fri Nov 30 16:38:09 PST 2007

Hello Ilyas,

You make a good point.  MacNiven is very direct in this, stating "Larry 
was formally transfered in October 1942 to Alexandria, where he lodged 
at the Cecil," which was rather rich for his purse, so he moved in with 
Williams.  I think he stayed there, more or less (with at least 2 
flights to Jerusalem, etc...), until June 1945 when he left for Rhodes.

That's about 33 months, by my count, in a city with a population of (I 
think) roughly half to 3/4 of a million.  That's about the size of 
Edmonton.  I should think nearly 3 years is enough time to get to know a 
city of that size reliably well.  In fact, it's roughly the same amount 
of time that I've lived here in Victoria (in total, spread out of 
several years), and this is a city I feel I know extremely well. 
Personally, I dismiss out of hand suggestions that Durrell simply didn't 
know the city very well.

Either way, Durrell would seem to have known Alexandria far better than 
Anis suggests -- likewise, her comment on the later publication (likely 
in reference to the documentary film "LD's Egypt" being shown tonight in 
Alexandria) are limited by the fact that his actual narrative of his 
return was never published.  She must be referring to his interview with 
Peter Adams.  The narrative is much like his "Oil for the Saint," and 
the ts. is in Paris while a single page (variant) of it is here in 
Victoria via the Jay Brigham papers.

I have to agree that the (as you put it) "he was foreign and he was a 
racist" approach can be hard to move beyond, just like approaching 
Conrad after Achebe's "Conrad was a bloody racist" comments.  Still, I 
think that much like Conrad, there's more going on, and if we stop our 
discussion at the instances of racism or foreign exoticism, we risk 
losing the many other things that work in tandem or sometimes even 
against such readings.

Pamela Francis may have more information at her fingertips on this 
topic, with her research on the Cairo Poets, but then again, her 
fingertips may be busy celebrating with a glass of wine by now...  Pamela?

I've written to Anis, so we'll see.  I do hope some dialogue can begin, 
because this is an exciting approach.  There are intimations of it in 
the proceedings of the 1996 conference, but those are hard to come by. 
Hopefully that can be remedied soon.

My best,

Ilyas Khan wrote:
> James,
> I also hope that Anis comes onto the board for a broader discussion. Getting
> beyond the well worn path of "he was foreign and he was a racist" might not
> be possible, but worth a try in my view.
> Also, James, wasn't LD in Alexandria in 1942,living with Gwyn Williams ? Its
> not just nit-picking here, but having 2 years or more in Alexandria, as
> opposed to a few months would make a difference to the view that LD barely
> knew the place.
>> From: James Gifford <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
>> Organization: University of Victoria
>> Reply-To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>> Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 09:36:04 -0800
>> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Alexandria: From Nasser to Lawrence Durrell
>> Hello all,
>> Charles, I'm very glad to see this posted.  Anis' perspective is one
>> that needs more voice.
>> That said, the literary element is certainly played down in her
>> discussion, and the tone of "why didn't he like us" detracts from her
>> valuable contentions.  Most notably, the whip and the racism surrounding
>> it overlooks that this is Memlik Pasha holding the whip, and I think
>> it's the only reference in _Mountolive_ (a well 'whipped' book) that is
>> not directed at Narouz.  The racist perspective on 'Egyptians crying for
>> the whip' then, to my mind, is a characterization based on the limited
>> narrative frame surrounding him at that point.  I can't imagine the same
>> comment coming from a scene limited to the perspectival frame of
>> Darley...  But then again, the whip image is nearly synonymous with
>> Narouz in that book, and his political position is in desperate need of
>> clarification.
>> Rather than suggesting that every racist utterance in a novel reflects
>> the author, I wonder what this says about the narrator, or perhaps far
>> more likely, Memlik Pasha?  I've only just now noticed, while teaching
>> _Monsieur_, that the racist comments appear only around particular
>> characters (in that instance Sutcliffe rather than Bruce).
>> I also think she's overlooked the literary elements of the book -- it's
>> almost like setting up a straw man to achieve a pre-determined end based
>> on a critique of ideological motivations.  That said, the ideology of
>> the _Quartet_ *hasn't* been adequately discussed, and the points she
>> raises are real ones.  I'd like to see them go further, and perhaps
>> without the constraints of a newspaper article, which I'm sure kept her
>> from a full (and perhaps even accurate) presentation of her thoughts.
>> I wonder if we can lure her into a productive discussion here?
>> Best,
>> James
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