[ilds] Durrell's Style(s)

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Sun Nov 30 06:58:09 PST 2008

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> I strongly disagree with Charles Sligh's take, which is the prevalent 
> one in some quarters these days, on the variety of Durrell's styles 
> and voices — an approach which has resulted in mistaken identity.  I 
> don't see Durrell as really having multiple voices (to say nothing of 
> personalities!) that subvert any attempt to categorize him as this or 
> that.  Now, Durrell probably wanted to achieve that effect, 
> undoubtedly so, i.e., to appear as, and perhaps to be, a sardonic, 
> irony-loving Pursewarden, laughing at everyone from Olympian heights. 
>  But, in my opinion, that is not /echt/ Durrell.  /Echt/ Durrell is 
> the Durrell of his poetic beginnings, those openings to the four 
> novels of the /Quartet//./  That is Darley's voice, and in part 
> Mountolive's, and that is the voice people remember and either love or 
> hate.  That is the voice old LD felt he had to disguise in order to 
> survive in a modernist world of irony and ambiguity.
> All too reductive, far too reductive, I can hear Charles saying.
> Bruce
An interesting post, Bruce.  Indeed, speaking in broad terms, I do not 

Here is how I see matters in the /Quartet/ after so many years of 
reading.  These points do not reflect how I once read the book--say 24 
years ago.  And the claims are certainly open to question by anybody else.

Darley speaks for Durrell's Romanticist, moon-calf side.  And what a 
rich, splendid side that is, mixed full of preciosity and insight and 
autobiography.  Splashes of Tempera & Lambent City-scapes & Spilt Wine 
on Cloaks in Cafes. "Spirit of Place."  (Do we laugh at the pretension, 
or do we wonder at the insight?)  That style was very much a signature 
of Durrell's own practice in certain earlier phases of his career, and 
the notebooks for /Justine/ &c. bear witness to how Durrell at early 
moments in the writing seems to be whole-heartedly indulging in 
Darley-esque moments, for the most part without any ironic distancing.

Pursewarden's arrival in the /Quartet/ witnesses something different, a 
shift in Durrell's awareness of his limits, his successes, and his 
potential range.  In effect, with Pursewarden seems to be the writer 
standing back from his work, looking back on his accomplishments in a 
reflective, posthumous mode.  Really, these days, when I read "Letters 
to Brother Ass" and the other Pursewarden moments, I hear the criticism 
and biting irony addressed not so much to Darley as to 

I will leave the pondering of "why?" to others.  I do not have any pet 
theories about what Durrell was hiding or from what he was hiding.  I do 
enjoy the books.


Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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