[ilds] as a child might a watch

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 14 14:05:35 PDT 2009


Provocative question, Charles, especially in terms of the composition  
and plan of Justine, but I'm not sure where it leads in terms of the  
primary text, unless you want to argue for Darley's post-coital/ 
historical insights after first making love to Justine.  I.e., the  
aftermath of that profound sexual experience creates in Darley some  
historical consciousness of Alexandria, which figuratively brings the  
present crashing down and opens up a vast past, Cavafy-like.  That I  
like.  But, as you say, the broken watch image is in a footnote, an  
authorial footnote, obviously, not the main text dealing with Darley's  
consciousness.  What is in the main text that has always stuck in my  
memory is the image of the Arab conqueror Amr, on his deathbed,  
"breathing through the eye of a needle."  An image of struggle,  
suffocation, and death — all in a post-sexual context, given Darley's  
situation.  (Cf. the fairly recent death of David Carradine in  
Bangkok, which some attributed to the practice of "auto-erotic  
asphyxiation.")   So, maybe one of Durrell's famous images (this one  
borrowed) can allude to some radical change in Darley's  
consciousness.  I guess, Charles, you're saying the main text and  
appended notes and translations really integrate into one reading  
experience.  And here, you're undoubtedly right.

By the way, Forster got the dying words of Amr from Alfred J. Butler's  
The Arab Conquest of Egypt (1902?).  I don't think Forster attributes  
the source in his Alexandria:  A History and a Guide.

Bruce


On Aug 14, 2009, at 9:38 AM, Charles Sligh wrote:

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