[ilds] authenticity and borrowing

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Dec 3 13:44:03 PST 2007


Bill wrote:

> But at bottom I really find the argument about
 > authenticity ungrounded. Can anyone give us two
 > descriptions of the same thing, one authentic,
 > the other inauthentic, and then explain why one
 > is and the other is not "authentic."

I think this is the crux.  Isn't the Quartet a work that relishes doing 
exactly this, ultimately distressing the project itself?

What I mean is, Durrell renders 'incorrect' interpretations of the world 
through his characters, which are later 'corrected' by alternative 
views, but in the end we realize this manifestation of Nietzsche's 
"cause creating drive" is just another attempt to make coherence out of 
something that's multiple.  That implicit "and" rather than an "or" is 
where I see Durrell's works fundamentally breaking with the 
epistemological predicates of postcolonial work -- reconciling the two 
is a fascinating project, even if it doesn't finally work.

But, Bill, I think that juxtaposition of the authentic versus the 
inauthentic is precisely the problem the reader is given in the Quartet, 
so we don't really need to new text for the exercise -- our attempts so 
far seem to suggest that authenticity is something based on the mobile 
activity of the interpretor rather than something intrinsic in the text, 
at least in Durrell's context.

This is, however, something that I see far more overtly in the Quintet, 
and so I may be anachronistically reading it in the Quartet.  I don't 
think so, but I'm open to that possibility.

For instance, in _Monsieur_ there's a wonderful juxtaposition of 
Sutcliffe's "failure" as an artist when he cannot create clarity from 
his multiple and contradictory notebook fragments (p. 171), which sits 
directly above Bruce's recognition (the other character claiming to be 
the narrator) that "It has done me good to put so much down on paper, 
though I notice that in the very act of recording things one makes them 
submit to a kind of ordering which may be false" (171).

Perhaps Durrell's works are entirely inauthentic, and that's what 
*makes* them authentic.  I mean that quite seriously.  My class is 
struggling with precisely that problem right now as we finish off 
_Monsieur_ this week.  The book simply refuses to allow for 
authenticity, and it actively suggests the creation of order, truth, and 
the authentic is the 'trap' of le Monsieur (though the Gnosticism is 
itself quite overtly a fake as well, appropriately enough).

Best,
James


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