[ilds] Dark globes

Mark Valentine Mark2.Valentine at btinternet.com
Wed Sep 10 12:59:17 PDT 2008


Lemons aren't globes either, are they ?

My interpretation would be that the fall of moon-shadow carves the lemons 
into the appearance of dark globes. It's both a poetic, literal description 
of what they look like, and a hint at the Gnostic belief that we live in a 
workd endarkened, hidden from the higher light.

Mark
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Subject: ILDS Digest, Vol 18, Issue 9


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> Today's Topics:
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>   1. Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town
>      (Denise Tart & David Green)
>   2. Re: Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town (csligh)
>   3. Re: Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town
>      (James Gifford)
>
>
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> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 12:01:40 +1000
> From: "Denise Tart & David Green" <dtart at bigpond.net.au>
> Subject: [ilds] Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town
> To: "Durrel" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
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> Here's a Durrellian question to puzzle over.  In that great poem "Bitter 
> Lemons,"  Durrell refers to the "dark globes of the fruit."  Lemons are 
> yellow.  Moreover, the situation is night, with moonlight reflecting off 
> the fruit, making them, to my mind, bright and shiny.  So why are the 
> lemons "dark?"  Darkness is a key to understanding Lawrence Durrell.
>
> Bowker explores this strongly in his biography of LD "The Dark Labyrinth". 
> The dark globes, the dark crystals are LD's discovery of himself and so we 
> come to the the Prince of Darkness in the Avingon series. As Bruce 
> Springsteen as said "in the Darkness on the Edge of Town" a song line I 
> have always found very evocative. LD, egotist, eccentric, drunkard, nomad, 
> outcast lived often in the darkness on the edge of town - consider his 
> 'Vampire House' on the edge of town.
>
> For all his wine, women, mirth and laughter, for all the sunlight of his 
> prose, the black dog was on his back.
>
> David
>
> Denise Tart & David Green
> 16 William Street, Marrickville NSW 2204
>
> +61 2 9564 6165
> 0412 707 625
> dtart at bigpond.net.au
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> Message: 2
> Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 10:30:59 -0400
> From: csligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
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> Denise Tart & David Green wrote:
>> So why are the lemons "dark?"  Darkness is a key to understanding
>> Lawrence Durrell.
>>
> A very interesting question, given that in popular reviews Durrell still
> maintains an identity as the writer of brightly-lit Mediterranean
> spaces.  I have always preferred "Durrell after Dark"--or "Durrell in
> whose works the Darkness offsets the Light"--the candles set out above
> the water in /Prospero's Cell/ and the dimly-lit Sitna Mariam incidents
> of the /Quartet/ are some of my favorites.
>
> I suspect that the answer to David's question would change in relation
> to the specific kind of work and the specific time of composition and
> publication.  For example, some of you have been spending time with the
> new editions of Durrell's early works of prose fiction.  Where do you
> find the darkness in those books from the mid-to-late 1930s?  How is
> darkness different in works from the late 1950s or the early 1980s?
>
> My own hunch:  I think that the darkness changes its location and
> significance as Durrell ages.  Could the Darley / Pursewarden pairing
> stand mipoint in the shift?  The younger writer still perceives darkness
> as external; the older writer recognizes his own darkness.   A very
> Janus-faced pairing, indeed.  And to offer a guess about the later
> works, I think there could be little disagreement that the weave of the
> /Quintet/ is suffused with darkness of different kinds.  Who escapes
> Darkness in late Durrell?  A halo-bright Clea is no longer a tenable
> resource. . . .
>
> Charles
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> Message: 3
> Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 08:39:01 -0700
> From: James Gifford <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Bitter Lemons and the darkness on the edge of town
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
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> Hi Charles & David,
>
> And excellent approach...  I must admit, I can't imagine reading /Bitter
> Lemons/ without the darkness.  Even apart from the inward glance of
> those dark globes, the role of darkness in the book seems to me to
> constantly anticipate the inevitable ending.  Any reading in 1958 knew
> how the book was going to end -- and it wouldn't end well.  "Blood" is
> casually mixed with the colours of the sunrise on the first page, on the
> second the glass palaces of the Doges are being pounded in a crystal
> mortar, or as Venice ends, "my thoughts turned to another sad relic -- 
> the flayed and stuffed skin of the great soldier Bragadino which lies
> mouldering."  We know what Cyprus holds.  In fact, "blood" suffuses the
> first pages of the book, so it's no surprise when the book ends with his
> recollections of gaiety displaced: "the whole had suddenly become
> darkened with the air itself, by blood."  It is a dark book...
>
> But, I sense that both Charles and David are edging toward something
> more, something inward.  I must admit that I've not considered a shift
> from darkness without to darkness within, though I don't think the early
> works are devoid of inner darkness, especially not /The Black Book/.
> I've interpreted /Monsieur/ somewhere as an exploration of the harm the
> characters bring upon themselves out of fear.  That inward exploration
> leads to something dark, being both unseen and dark in the metaphorical
> sense.  And like Oedipus, they blind themselves to this realization.
>
> I see precisely the same problem in /Pied Piper of Lovers/.  As Ian
> MacNiven has argued, the novel is suffused with death, and like
> /Monsieur/, I tend to see that knowledge as driving the character's to
> blindness about themselves and into more limited or destructive lives.
> Walsh's fears lead him to a life he does not want, although we do have
> an Edenic ending in which he has fled the city to his "island" in a
> cottage, but he's still there to wait for death.
>
> /Pied/ opens and closes with death (the last implicit), but they are the
> deaths of others (yet pointing to the dreaded death of himself, gasp -- 
> if only he'd read Gilgamesh).  Still, self-exploration is prominent,
> partly as the protagonist's aim and partly due to this being LD's most
> autobiographical book (I'd say it's more autobiographical than any of
> the 'foreign residence' books).
>
> /Panic Spring/ is again caught up in obsessions with death, and death
> marks the climax of the novel (I won't make the joke).  It's not as
> obsessively inward as /Monsieur/, but nearly all the chapters focus on
> remembering.  The quest, if it can really be said to have one, is for
> characters to look inward in order to move outward into a more free and
> enriching life, which is how we see the novel end for two characters,
> but it does not end that way for the character watching them, nor does
> it end thus for the dead.
>
> But, Charles is quite specific in his question, and I'm rambling...
>
>> My own hunch:  I think that the darkness changes
>> its location and significance as Durrell ages.
>> Could the Darley / Pursewarden pairing stand
>> mipoint in the shift?  The younger writer still
>> perceives darkness as external; the older writer
>> recognizes his own darkness.
>
> I'd go with that, but as a difference in degree rather than kind.  The
> junior artist of /Pied Piper/ seems to be reaching after Joyce's
> /Portrait/, while Darley in the Quartet is able to look back at the time
> leading him up to that self-exploration through writing "Once upon a
> time..."  Darley can externalize it.  Still, the inward exploration in
> /Pied Piper/ finds only pain, so I think the path of darkness and the
> inevitable return to finding it on the inside rather than outside was
> set from the beginning.
>
> In a way, I suppose I'm saying that the darkness of the 1950s is
> different, while the darkness before and after is akin.
>
> For David's focus on the poem "Bitter Lemons," I'd point not just to the
> dark globes of the fruit in the moonlight but to what is censored
> (unsaid), who is tortured, and whose habits are dead (and are the habits
> a hint to the religious influence on the island's politics)?  Darkness
> then appears cradled between "beauty" and "vehemence," which seem to me
> a clue.  They're three sides of the same "dark crystal," if you will.
>
> Yet, if the poem's narrator is to find peace, it seems that beauty,
> darkness, and deep belief must all be pitched into the sea (let the sea
> nurses keep them) -- if we want a beautiful book, it's going need to
> plumb the darkness of sea monsters, torture, and death, otherwise we
> can't have beauty either.  That strikes me as very much Durrell's
> attitude in his first two novels.  Still, I see an anti-political tone
> in the early Durrell too, and I wonder if this 'prayer' in the poem is
> for us to pitch the dark crystal into the sea in life but gaze deeply in
> art: let the darkness work itself out in art rather than in the world.
>
> Thanks for letting me ramble over my morning coffee...  Now off to work!
>
> Best,
> James
>
>
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