[ilds] Genesis of the Quartet

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Fri May 2 11:29:50 PDT 2008


> 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.

I agree very much here, Charles.  Out of curiosity, what if we were to 
insist on having all the variants of Joyce's /Dubliners/ or /Ulysses/ on 
the table at the same time, or for that matter, even /finengans wake/. 
Just because the author eventually endorsed a single edition (kinda...) 
doesn't meant that we should send every other state to the trash bin of 
history -- I think that Durrell delights me, even if only in part, 
because it's so terribly difficult to hold to such fictions of unity 
with him.

I'm reminded of LD's attempt to revise /Tunc/ and /Nunquam/, which 
didn't appear -- would that have made a distinct /Revolt/ (albeit under 
another title)?  I'm still terribly caught by my first reading of the 
Quintet, in which I think the author's discovery of the book during the 
process of writing is hard to ignore.  It's part of what makes the work 
interesting.

Charles, I'm guessing here, but would you like to have each of the four 
volumes *and* /The Alexandria Quartet/ in addition?  Hmmm.

I was asked by a student earlier this term during a presentation for a 
course that was not my own (I spread out the 1922 'Ulysseses' and 'Waste 
Lands' among their compatriots in the library) why bibliographers want 
the first version of the work rather than the last -- I said that's an 
old lie.  Bibliographers want /all/ versions at the same time.  Durrell 
is one who makes me want the first vision, the final revision, the 
in-between, and yet at no point do I feel as though I'm entering into 
some Kundera-esque censorship of history, no matter how much he 
"elaborates"...  Each change stays on the table as an option.

Best,
James

slighcl wrote:
> 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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