[ilds] Grand Designs

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 28 16:54:47 PDT 2008

Yes, the overarching title Alexandria Quartet probably overreaches and distorts.  Durrell was not writing a Ulysses in which he made sure everything fit, as near as possible.  In fact, Durrell seems to have had little interest in revising and putting together the "perfect" masterpiece.  Consistency is not one of its virtues.  If you look at the little things, you notice inconsistencies.  I'm reminded of Herbert Muller's Uses of the Past (1952) and his introductory essay on Hagia Sophia in Istanbul/Constantinople and how he describes getting up close and noticing all the flaws in its construction, despite the fact the overall impression of the church is absolutely stupendous.  The AQ is like that.  One very minor example.  Durrell's Corniche resonates as the Grand Corniche, which, as has been noted before is inaccurate.  But I always remember "Grand Corniche," although most of his references are simply to the Corniche.  My memory prefers the grand design and discounts his inconsistencies.

Charles is being very kind when he says Durrell had an "eloquent gift for elaboration."  Not for nothing did he make a very good press officer, a spinmeister.


-----Original Message-----
>From: slighcl <slighcl at wfu.edu>
>Sent: Apr 28, 2008 11:47 AM
>To: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] Genesis of the Quartet
>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.

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