[ilds] as a child might a watch

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Fri Aug 14 09:38:16 PDT 2009

Dear friends, could we not turn back to what connects Durrell's writings 
and life with the culture and history of Alexandria?

For my own part, in reference to the reports on the rise of a 
homogeneous Alexandria in the later 20th century, I recall how Durrell 
quotes Forster in the "Notes in the Text" to /Justine/:

>     Amr Conqueror of Alexandria, was a poet and soldier.  Of the Arab
>     invasion E.M. Forster writes: "Though they had not intention of
>     destroying her, they destroyed her, as a child might a watch.  She
>     never functioned again properly for over 1,000 years."

That endnote seems just as provocative today as it did in 1956-1957.  Is 
there not some back-and-forth pull between the Amr's sensitivity as a 
poet-soldier and the destructiveness of his Arab successors?  Strange, that.

The same note faces on to Cavafy's two poems about different losses of 
Alexandria, "The City" and "The God Abandons Antony."  I am certain that 
shifting Alexandria away from Ptolemaic rule to the new Roman regime 
brought its own distinctive uncertainties. 

Others may want to comment upon Alexandrian history and politics &c., 
but I for one will wonder, How does this endnote connect with its point 
of origin, at the close of Part I of /Justine/?   That is where Darley 
tells us "it was as if the whole city had crashed about my ears."

In terms of /Justine/ and the /Quartet/, I think that all of these 
moments could be usefully juxtaposed.

In terms of what differing sides call history, well, I am less certain.


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

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