[ilds] Durrell the pragmatic

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed May 7 10:38:10 PDT 2008

On 5/7/2008 6:14 AM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:
> We spoke and wrote earlier of Durrell the pragmatic writer. Here he is 
> in his own words
> "When I leave here (Cyprus) I'm going to live in the south of France, 
> where the cigarettes are a shilling a packet and wine is sixpence a 
> bottle, and I've got enough in the kitty to live for a year like that, 
> by the end of which I shall have written a book that will really 
> sell....I'm going to write high-brow pornography and they'll swallow it."
> here we see the writer serving his loves or addictions and writing 
> what he thinks sells. Enter /Justine /and the quartet. Of course there 
> is more to LD than that - the soul behind the story, the craftsman at 
> work and all that, but it is refreshing to see the practical behind 
> the art.
I agree, David.  What you say about /Justine /recalls what I have come 
to understand about how Durrell uses Darley, Pursewarden, and Arnauti to 
articulate different aspects of how he understands his writing vocation//. 

With Pursewarden Durrell speaks in the clear-eyed, skeptical and ironic 
voice of the seasoned writer.  Pursewarden is also retrospective, 
posthumous.  He is the "practical" side of Durrell.

With Darley, Durrell can still dream about "the soul behind the story," 
as you call it.  Darley--despite his pretensions to world-weary 
experience and "bankruptcy"--is fledgling and prospective.

Pursewarden and Darley check each other in a sort of way that makes me 
wonder if Durrell wasn't speaking to his own hopes and ambivalence about 
what sort to writer he would turn out to be. 

And Arnauti is a fine, belated acknowledgment of the frustrated initial 
attempts and dead ends that Durrell experienced over all of the previous 
years as he attempted to start the work that he would later call 

I will also offer an observation.  It seems to me that Durrell's most 
vocal readers tend to latch on either to the Darley side or to the 
Pursewarden side of "Lawrence Durrell."   That is, I find that there is 
a certain sort of reader who thinks of Durrell primarily as the 
Darley-like author of books suffused with exoticism and eroticism, with 
theories about the "Spirit of Place," "Modern Love," gnosticism, &c.  I 
also find that there is another type of reader who imagines a Durrell 
who is much more like Pursewarden--ironically inflecting all of his 
writing to such a degree that nothing can be taken or trusted at face value.

After many years of my own moving back and forth between 'Durrell as 
Darley' and 'Durrell as Pursewarden,' I am trying instead to think more 
and more about Durrell as the old man who withdrew into the late 
afternoon shade of his garden, leaving behind once and for all these 
puppets he created and their noisy, fussy debates.  I just want to wish 
him rest.  He was so very tired.


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

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