[ilds] Sweet and Sour

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu May 1 11:03:30 PDT 2008

Charles and James,

Thank you both for your long, thoughtful, and informative responses.  I'll just make a few general comments and not try to answer point for point.  David's and Carrie's recent emails highlight the reasons Lawrence Durrell will last and be enjoyed for as long as readers enjoy sun, water, beauty, wine, and the magical words that make those things so.  That's what first drew me to him, but that's not what now interests me about the man.  I find the "dark crystal" image at the beginning and end of Prospero's Cell paradigmatic.  At the heart of Durrell's Greek world of brilliant light is not more light but darkness.  It's a black hole which was always there from the beginning and into which he himself got sucked in the end.  The image isn't accurate -- black holes are invisible -- but it serves its purpose.  Durrell is like D. H. Lawrence's "dark sun."

I find Durrell's ego troubling.  He makes fun of himself and admits he was once as "jaunty as a god of bullfrogs" in "Le cercle referme."  James cites other examples of self-mockery.  But I still find his egoism troubling.  Charles said somewhere that Pursewarden was a way for Durrell to view his own epitaph.  Maybe Charles meant something else, but that's the way I remember it.  I think this observation is correct and telling.  Durrell is like grand, silver-tongued Othello, who makes the beautiful speeches but who also can't get past his own heroic self-image and consequently destroys himself.  Too many mirrors in Durrell's world -- too much concern about one's various appearances.  True, it's a fashionable comment on multiple personalities and DHL's overturning of the "old stable ego."  But I just find it too egocentric.  It's obsessive.  It's sick.

"Loeb's Horace" is, in part, an inexcusable attack on another great poet.  Durrell's John Keats in the Quartet is an example of childish name calling, and Durrell's other attacks on English poets equally juvenile.  I don't attribute this to the usual cattiness among great writers competing for acclaim.  It seems to me far more fundamental, something similar to Hemingway's emotional problems, which, as Kenneth Lynn's biography has shown, were very big indeed.  I think Durrell was not always the cheerful exponent of the sunny life -- rather he was often on the brink of madness and was only able to survive through his art.  Hence, the conclusion to that interview in the Paris Review, which Charles quoted, the one where Durrell says, "I find art easy.  I find life difficult."  And when the art stopped, so did the life.


More information about the ILDS mailing list