[ilds] contre la solitude

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Fri Aug 14 06:26:44 PDT 2009

Rui Martins wrote:
> On the third book, Mountolive, comes a famous line (Pursewarden 
> dancing with Melissa:
> “Melissa, comment vous défendez vous contre la solitude" ... "Messieur 
> je suis devenue la solitude même"
> Now, for the first time I’m reading the original, on the Faber and 
> Faber edition and, to mi surprise, (and sadness, I should say) I read :
> "Melissa, comment vous défendez vous contre la foule" ... "Messieur je 
> ne me défend plus"
> Put both lines on Google only the first one is quoted.
> Being so different one from the other, It does not seem the case for a 
> mistake or a liberty from the translator, does it, could that be a 
> rewriting from the part of Durrell himself?
> Again sorry to bother you, but really I’ve seam to be deprived of one 
> of my favourite lines in literature ever J
Hello, Rui.

Yes, the revisions come from Durrell for the 1962 Faber one-volume 
/Quartet/. Your Portuguese translation seems to have used the earlier 
1958 printing of /Mountolive/ for the reading text.

There is no simple answer for why Durrell made the changes. We cannot 
read his mind or know his intention, and until Faber chooses to share 
more of its archive, that is the state of the matter.

You share that these lines in French are some of your "favourite lines 
in literature ever." Could you tell us about that?

What do these words say to you? And what gets lost in the revision?

Has anybody else been drawn to this conversation in /Mountolive/?

By the way, like you, I also have an attachment to the earlier, 
"uncorrected" texts of /Justine/, /Balthazar/, /Mountolive/, and /Clea/. 
Durrell was the maker, so he was certainly welcome to go back and put 
more finish on what he found unsatisfying. And his ideas about the 
/Quartet/ changed as he wrote and when he finished the series.

(Perhaps his understanding of the nuances of French was better circa 

But I like the books best--I /recall/ the books at their best--with 
beauty marks and moles and bruises.

Thank you!


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

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