[ilds] Genesis of the Quartet

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Mon Apr 28 11:47:48 PDT 2008


On 4/28/2008 12:32 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> No need to wait for the next issue of Deus Loci.  Re from 1 to 4, Michael Haag in Alexandria:  City of Memory (London & Cairo, 2004) gives his proof of how Durrell came to conceive the Quartet (pp. 320ff).  Durrell would later claim that he had initially "planned four books," but "this was untrue," as Haag states and demonstrates (p. 326).  
I agree with Michael's case as set forth in his provocative paper at OMG 
Victoria.  The genesis of the literary work that we now refer to as /The 
Alexandria Quartet/ is most curious, and I think that if anything it 
demonstrates Durrell's facility with spinning out fictions, whether 
literary or autobiographical.  In a significant way, when Durrell looks 
back on the completed /Quartet /and claims that the four-part series had 
been planned out for a period of time as a coherent piece of 
architecture, he is taking up his own highly-recursive, 
backward-glancing literary methods from /Balthazar /&c. and applying 
them to the composition history of his tetralogy.   Durrell's printed 
and recorded interviews are intriguing this way.  He really did have an 
impressive, eloquent gift for elaboration.  (Translate that last term 
according to your own delights or discontents.)

Having said that, I find myself still imagining /Balthazar /somehow 
renamed as Durrell 'originally' titled it in his working notebooks, 
"Echoes of /Justine/."  All in all, I prefer to read /Justine/, 
/Balthazar/, /Mountolive/, and /Clea /as something ongoing, something 
still to be discovered.  Knowing that the author who wrote them was also 
nosing his way forward and still discovering his crucial form adds to 
the aesthetic of the novels.  And calling them in a corporate fashion 
/The Alexandria Quartet/ seems to bind the books down in a way that I 
favor less and less.

Charles

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