[ilds] Mass Observation

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed Jun 18 08:54:00 PDT 2008


Hello all,

I've stumbled rather accidentally into some Durrelliana in the archives 
of Mass Observation held at the University of Sussex.  For those who've 
not run into Mass Observation before, it's great fun and includes many 
folks familiar to Durrell scholars (David Gascoyne in particular). 
Typos are original.

I like the first since I think we can almost see the tongue planted 
exceptionally firmly in someone's cheek (perhaps the interviewer's...), 
but the second file report on books is quite interesting and probably 
the only access we have to the 'common' reader of Durrell's /The Black 
Book/.

Enjoy!
James

-------------------------------------

from /Women in Pubs/ file report 1661

M40D "Of course women can't hold it like a man and a
           drunken woman isnot a pleasant sight ....
                               (Durrell)

F55C "... Sometimes when they come in alone, they
                don't go out alone, but who am I to
                criticise". (Durrell)


from /Books and the Public/ file report 1332

(v) "I started to read book called "Ishtar'. It's not very good
     but I was very vague as to who Ishtar was - apparently the
     Babylonian goddess of love, war and feritility. Persepone,
     Artemis and Freya all in one. Normally Iwould not have
     bothered with it but a remark in Durrell's 'Black Book' had
     set me wondering about Ishtar, vis - 'From music we demand
     our whole life if it is to move us; every modulation of dream,
     despair, love yearning. It is the past and the future going
     down into the tomb; the descent of Ishtar among the soiled
     roses; the entry into the chamber of the Cosmos; the first
     kicking in the womb and the last elegant spasm of cessation,
     lull, status'. Ishtar by E.S. Stevens is badly written and
     rater trite, but quite interesting. I like stories about
     'digs' and I am rather interested in Baghdad though I know very
     little about that part of the world." (Housewife)

[about this last one, I wonder what housewife was reading /The Black 
Book/ in July 1942 when this file was compiled, especially enough to 
quote from memory!  There are two highly akin references in /The Black 
Book/, though the 'housewife' is clearly referring to the second:

"I am reminded of Ishtar going down every year into the territories 
underground, the atmosphere of dust and ashes and silence; and the slow 
vegetative revival of life, the corn springing from the navel of Osiris. 
The rain dazzling on the enormous eyelashes of April. The English 
Seasons, so nostalgic in death, cherishing their decay in heavy loam and 
delicate rain! It is something unknown. Spring under the ledge of the 
Ionian weather, that is the image which has swallowed the cottage, the 
April, the drizzle among the corn; your letter reminds me of the sea 
among the islands, played out, sluggish, inert like a heavy blue syrup. 
And here? Dust on the window frames, dust on our hands, our eyebrows, 
and the racket of machines."

   and

"I am standing at the window watching the storm gather. The lightning is 
so smooth and trembling that it lights the room with a queer sustained 
glint of green, as it might be an aquarium, and I standing here, on the 
carpet of weeds and slimy rock, waiting. I am thinking of Tarquin's 
music, and realizing that of all this fear and turmoil it has recorded 
nothing. From music we demand our whole life if it is to move us: every 
modulation of dream, despair, love, yearning. It is the past and the 
future, the first rapture of living, and that future going down into the 
tomb; the descent of Ishtar among the soiled roses; the entry into the 
chamber of the cosmos; the first kicking in the womb, and the last 
elegant spasm of cessation, lull, status."


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