[ilds] authentic

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Mon Dec 3 06:44:29 PST 2007

A very good response, indeed, Ilyas.  I appreciate this point in 
particular, which I think to be the necessary starting point for anyone 
reading literature in any of the available modes--for pleasure, for 
review, for study in the classroom, or for scholarship:

>     As you well know, its very easy to take the easy way out when
>     defending the work of writers who are attempting reality, but who
>     might be slap-dash in their execution./ *Justine*/* falls so far
>     out of that category -- and scores so highly from an aesthetic
>     standpoint*, that LD creates and sustains his own authenticity.
>     For thousands of readers who will never get to Alexandria, the
>     city and the people who inhabit his books (and the city, by
>     extension) have come alive.

That is, as we begin thinking about a work like /Justine/, we ask how 
well-made is the work, how fine is the workmanship, and what are the 
standards by which we are judging?  

My own priorities are admittedly aesthetic.  In other words, I am most 
interested in Durrell's writerly crafting of /Justine /&c. as a 
particular innovation at a particular time and place within the Western 
literary traditions he admired but found inadequate and in need of 
innovation.  (I am also keenly interested in how /Justine /and his other 
works have been accepted or rejected by those presuming to speak for 
these traditions.)  Economics certainly come into play.  (In 1947 or in 
1957 or in 1987, money was ever as crucial a motivator for Durrell as 
any other I can name, aesthetic or otherwise.  And beyond Durrell, Faber 
found and still finds lucrative return in keeping /Justine /in print.)  
And politics are there.  (Thus my recognition that we must engage the 
rejections of Durrell, whether from Anis or Said.  I am partisan and 
pro-Durrell, but I try to stay self-conscious and honest about why I am 
partisan.)  But before I even worry about any of those questions, my 
interest and enthusiasm first have to be sustained by the surprising 
quality of workmanship, the pleasure of the language and the 
imagination.  And /Justine /does sustain my pleasure and my interest, to 
the nth degree x 23 years.

You also write about how:

>     In the most basic case people will challenge a particular street
>     or house or even room scene and say "that wasn't real" or "I've
>     been there, and I can tell you that wasn't real". However, these
>     challenges, often well deserved in the literal sense, are not
>     relevant in my view to the overall question that has to be posed
>     when assessing the work of LD the writer and artist. 

Well said.  I will respond by anticipating the response of a critic with 
the political priorities articulated in the al-Ahram piece.  I imagine 
that such an antagonist will most probably object that: "But Durrell is 
depicting /people/, not rooms."  What then?


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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20071203/d1ce777f/attachment.html 

More information about the ILDS mailing list