[ilds] Achebe on Conrad/Durrell

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 16 15:28:44 PDT 2009


Jacob,

Yes, I agree.  Good points.  Joyce and Durrell -- fascinating topic.   
If you're interested in the city as an imaginative construct, read  
Robert Alter's latest book, Imagined Cities, which approaches the  
topic through various kinds of discourse, erlebte rede, etc.  He picks  
up on Dorrit Cohn's analysis. I'd like to see someone do that with  
Durrell.  Good luck.

Bruce

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 16, 2009, at 1:22 PM, Jacob Riley <jtriley at unca.edu> wrote:

> "I mentioned earlier Chinua Achebe's article on Conrad's Heart of
> Darkness (1899), an early classic, especially ever since Eliot mined
> it for an epigraph in "The Hollow Men."  The article:  "An Image of
> Africa:  Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (Mass. Review 18
> [1977]).  Achebe is a Nigerian.  Besides labeling Conrad a racist,
> Achebe's criticism of HD basically boils down to saying, and here I do
> not quote, just paraphrase liberally, "The novella is not true.  It
> badly misrepresents Africa and Africans.  It's a gross and unfair
> treatment of the Congo and it's people, and it's typical of the racism
> of the European colonial mind."  In short, and here's a direct quote,
> "[Conrad's] obvious racism has, however, not been addressed.  And it
> is high time it was!"  All this I would argue strenuously against and
> say that Achebe doesn't understand what Conrad is trying to do.
> Moreover, I give Conrad complete latitude to say whatever he deems
> necessary to accomplish his artistic ends, which I see in no way  
> racist.
>
> Achebe's arguments are relevant to this discussion, because I find
> them very close to a lot of criticism I heard at "The Durrell
> Celebration," held in Alexandria, Egypt, 2007, on the occasion of the
> fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Justine.  There many
> Egyptian members of the audience stood up and attacked the Quartet,
> using arguments very similar to Achebe's.  I have no sympathy with
> that approach." --Bruce (i think this was your post, the message  
> format is confusing)
>
> Bruce, I was furious after I read Achebe's article in a literary  
> theory course. As you say, I don't read Conrad as a 'realistic'  
> representation of (in the sense of a realistic novel) the continent  
> of Africa, just as Durrell is not attempting to portray the "real"  
> life of Alexandrians in the quartet. In fact, I think that looking  
> at Durrell's later work like Tunc/Numquam and especially the Avignon  
> Quintet are less about the characters and even the environment and  
> more about the ideas Durrell is shoving into the novels. I found a  
> similar thing going on with Heart of Darkness, whereas the ideas in  
> Durrell are more presented through the character's dialogue and  
> action in an unconventionally clear way. Maybe this is just the way  
> I read, but Durrell sometimes reads like a philosophical treatise or  
> even an academic article--especially with the endless quotations  
> built up in order to support a generalization made about a  
> character. All this is to say that I think it is the reader's (and  
> not the writer's) responsibility to be aware of the potentially  
> racist way of reading the novel (i.e. that Conrad is trying to  
> represent a "real" Africa). The same goes with Durrell, as Eagleton  
> puts it (albeit with  negative tone) Alexandria is a 'city of the  
> mind'--as such, it is a city, and a novel, of complex ideas.
>
> I apologize if this seems irrelevant to the thread. I'm just now  
> trying to get into this mailing list as I'm attempting to write on  
> Durrell and Joyce for my undergraduate thesis.
>
> On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 3:00 PM, <ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca> wrote:
> Send ILDS mailing list submissions to
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>
> Today's Topics:
>
>   1. "a country of the mind" (Charles Sligh)
>   2. Which seedy Poem (Denise Tart & David Green)
>   3. Subject: Eagleton (Charles Sligh)
>   4. Takes (Bruce Redwine)
>   5. Re: Subject: Eagleton (James Gifford)
>   6. Re: Takes (James Gifford)
>   7. Re: Takes (gkoger at mindspring.com)
>   8. Re: Takes (Charles Sligh)
>   9. Re: Takes (Bruce Redwine)
>  10. Re: Takes (Bruce Redwine)
>
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 15 Aug 2009 16:05:32 -0400
> From: Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
> Subject: [ilds] "a country of the mind"
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Message-ID: <4A87150C.1090103 at utc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>
> Terry Eagleton wrote:
> >
> >         "Durrell once described himself as a "supreme trickster",  
> and
> >         this is surely one reason why his celebrity proved so
> >         shortlived. The glittering surface of his prose conceals an
> >         emotional anaesthesia, for which the portentously "profound"
> >         reflections of the Quartet are meant to compensate. Like  
> many
> >         poets, his verbal sensitivity is in inverse proportion *to
> >         _real_ human sympathy, a sublimated _selfishness_ evident in
> >         his life as much as his work**. What was _real_ was what he
> >         could exoticise, convert to mythological archetype or
> >         high-sounding platitude. His Alexandria is _a country of the
> >         mind_, attractive precisely because its cultural and ethnic
> >         mix makes it at once nowhere and everywhere. I*f he  
> plundered
> >         Egypt for its symbolic capital, he also groused about its
> >         "stinking inhabitants".
> >
> And Sumantra then asked:
> >
> >
> >         George Steiner upheld the rich prose of Durrell as a relief
> >         from the flat prose of English fiction which had set in by  
> the
> >         1950s. But it seems to me that some critics (including  
> perhaps
> >         Eagleton) see this quality of Durrell as filling the need  
> of a
> >         particular period. What happens if you judge the novels in
> >         critical terms other than those of the quality of prose?
> >
> >
> Well, I would first refuse to yield the ground to Eagleton.  Why let  
> him
> set the rules by which we take our pleasure?
>
> I would remind Eagleton that there are other ways to read, other  
> ways to
> enjoy the world, other values beyond his particular sort of late  
> Marxism.
>
> I would ask Eagleton:
>
>            * Why should "real human sympathy" or anything else "real"
>              determine the pleasure or quality of fiction, art, or
>              music?
>            * Why should something "selfish"--even something / 
> supremely/
>              self-centered, sublimated or intentional--be viewed as
>              less worthy?
>            * What precisely is negative about projecting "a country of
>              the mind"?
>            * Why promote this touchstone test of "the real"?  Try  
> using
>              that test in Shakespeare's Elsinore, Coleridge's Xanadu,
>              Bront?s' Wuthering Heights, Carroll's Wonderland,
>              Dunsany's Pegana, Cabell's Poictesme, or even the
>              different kinds of "Dublin" appearing in the late middle
>              chapters of Joyce's /Ulysses/.
>            * And what is this talk about "a sublimated selfishness
>              evident in his life as much as his work"? / /There
>              Eagleton really voices the police or the social worker,
>              trying to come around knocking at the house and correct
>              Durrell's biography.
>
> Eagleton is /wrong/ in assuming that his points about Durrell's  
> writing
> are somehow damning--that these points somehow expose Durrell's  
> offenses
> against an already agreed notion of what we can and cannot do with
> literature.    Really, there is no such formula or checklist.
>
> Charles
>
> --
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 2
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 06:58:38 +1000
> From: "Denise Tart & David Green" <dtart at bigpond.net.au>
> Subject: [ilds] Which seedy Poem
> To: "Durrel" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> Message-ID: <289ABD0104EE4FE4B2416D8B182B9BB5 at MumandDad>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
>
> Sumantra wrote: "This seediness associated with the writer has been  
> expressed in the last poem on Lawrence Durrell displayed in a recent  
> post and written by an ILDS Discussion Forum member."
>
> Sumantra poem are you refering to? One of mine or the one by Charles  
> Bryant? I think mine are largely visceral or plays on words which,  
> apart from references to Larry's vinuous habits, make no mention of  
> Durrell's notorious sex life.
>
> Speaking of colonials, one must be careful here as we cannot all be  
> tarred with the same brush. You have the British African and Indian  
> 'born to rule' type colonials who were given jobs as information  
> officers on various British protectorates or possessions (e.g Larry  
> on Rhodes or Cyprus) and then you have the Australian and New  
> Zealand variety who, apart from some issues with their respective  
> indiginous populations and with their strange accents, have never  
> ruled over anyone much except over England on the sporting field,  
> such are our glorious achievements in world history.
>
> David Green
> Coarse Colonial from the Antipodes
>
>
> 16 William Street
> Marrickville NSW  2204
> +61 2 9564 6165
> 0412 707 625
> dtart at bigpond.net.au
> www.denisetart.com.au
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> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 3
> Date: Sat, 15 Aug 2009 18:11:49 -0400
> From: Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
> Subject: [ilds] Subject: Eagleton
> To: "ilds at lists.uvic.ca" <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> Message-ID: <4A8732A5.8060400 at utc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>
> >
> > Subject:
> > Eagleton
> > From:
> > "Mark Valentine" <Mark2.Valentine at btinternet.com>
> > Date:
> > Sat, 15 Aug 2009 21:19:17 +0100
> >
> > To:
> > <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> >
> >
> > Unfortunately, Eagleton cannot be regarded as a reliable critic of  
> any
> > author outside the narrow Marxist, social-realist limit of his own
> > convictions. Because he proceeds from this particular drab,
> > determinist world-view, he starts from a position of prejudice  
> against
> > Durrell, the bon viveur, the aesthete, the mystic, and then seeks  
> out
> > reasons to denigrate him.  It is the same with other authors whose
> > world-view or lifestyle are different to his own. Seeking Eagleton's
> > opinions about Durrell is about as useful as asking a lead weight  
> what
> > it thinks of an orchid.
> >
> > Mark V
>
> --
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 4
> Date: Sat, 15 Aug 2009 15:42:10 -0700
> From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> Subject: [ilds] Takes
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Cc: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> Message-ID: <BEB55669-6197-4221-A08B-5DDAB4390A93 at earthlink.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
>
> Sumantra,
>
> Thanks for the interesting and informed email re a couple of "takes"
> on Lawrence Durrell and his standing in what? ? "English letters?"
> Charles has already given his "take," and I agree with everything he
> said.  A couple of over-long comments, which I hope are relevant.
>
> I mentioned earlier Chinua Achebe's article on Conrad's Heart of
> Darkness (1899), an early classic, especially ever since Eliot mined
> it for an epigraph in "The Hollow Men."  The article:  "An Image of
> Africa:  Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (Mass. Review 18
> [1977]).  Achebe is a Nigerian.  Besides labeling Conrad a racist,
> Achebe's criticism of HD basically boils down to saying, and here I do
> not quote, just paraphrase liberally, "The novella is not true.  It
> badly misrepresents Africa and Africans.  It's a gross and unfair
> treatment of the Congo and it's people, and it's typical of the racism
> of the European colonial mind."  In short, and here's a direct quote,
> "[Conrad's] obvious racism has, however, not been addressed.  And it
> is high time it was!"  All this I would argue strenuously against and
> say that Achebe doesn't understand what Conrad is trying to do.
> Moreover, I give Conrad complete latitude to say whatever he deems
> necessary to accomplish his artistic ends, which I see in no way  
> racist.
>
> Achebe's arguments are relevant to this discussion, because I find
> them very close to a lot of criticism I heard at "The Durrell
> Celebration," held in Alexandria, Egypt, 2007, on the occasion of the
> fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Justine.  There many
> Egyptian members of the audience stood up and attacked the Quartet,
> using arguments very similar to Achebe's.  I have no sympathy with
> that approach.
>
> Now, Terry Eagleton is another prominent opponent of Durrell's work.
> First, I would mention Eagleton is a critic of questionable ethics,
> since he reviewed MacNiven's biography of LD in TLS?, without the
> courtesy of a complete and careful reading of the work.  Not
> surprisingly, Eagleton commits a number of factual errors about
> Durrell.  All this has been previously discussed on the List.  Second,
> Eagleton is a Marxist critic, and Marxist like to talk about the
> social value of literary works or "real human sympathy," as you quote
> Eagleton saying below ? none of which should be confused with the
> ethical values of reviewers.  Finally, re Eaglerton's criticism of
> Durrell's "country of the mind?"  Charles deals with this well.  I
> only add, and what's wrong with that?  Joyce has his Dublin and Proust
> his Paris ? all countries of the mind, in my mind, and they will  
> endure.
>
> Eagleton's final barb, however, strikes home, but not as he would
> like.  As a throwaway, he mentions Nabokov as another example of
> "elitism and aestheticism," but an author with a "finer literary
> talent."  And this is surely true.  Nabokov's Lolita consistently gets
> ranked as the second greatest novel of the 20th century, second only
> to Joyce's Ulysses.  Durrell's problem, as I see it, is that he wasn't
> enough of an artist or, to put it another way, not hard working
> enough.  He was too gifted and writing came to him too easily.
> Besides his other problems of overwriting and a propensity towards
> pomposity, he didn't revise as he should have and try to turn out a
> finished product equal to those just mentioned.  Of course, he had
> financial considerations ? the pressures of wives, ex-wives, and
> children.  But I think something else caused his restlessness with
> art, and I don't know what it was.
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
>
> On Aug 15, 2009, at 11:05 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:
>
> > Charles: "That sort of objection springs from the sense that
> > literature must
> > accurately reflect some locatable, fixed reality--or that
> > literaturemust "reform" and "correct" misguided views of a stable
> > reality."
> >
> > Bruce: "How is Durrell's viewpoint to be taken?  How is it to be
> > judged?  Is its portrayal of Alexandria fair?  Need it be?  To be
> > honest, I've never satisfactorily answered these questions for  
> myself,
> > but that has not stopped me from continuing to enjoy reading the
> > novels.  There's something in the Quartet that is magical and
> > transcends conventional analysis,"
> >  
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Charles, Bruce, thank you both very much for your thoughtful
> > responses. As points of reference, I am reproducing above, only a
> > small part of your respective comments.
> >
> > Bruce, it is some time since I read Joseph Conrad's "Heart of
> > Darkness". I think it is Lawrence Durrell's reflective comments
> > about Alexandria, scattered all over the Quartet, and reading like a
> > travelogue, that tend to portray the image of a colonial traveller
> > or expatriate. I don't recall the same impression in "Heart of
> > Darkness" where description is direct - but I may well be missing
> > out on something. (The intensity of prose in Conrad's "Lord Jim" is
> > held up by George Steiner as an example of baroque writing for
> > comparison with the prose of the AQ - I posted an extract from
> > George Steiner on ILDS some time ago.) I also think it is valid to
> > point out that Durrell's characters are seen as limited to
> > foreigners in Alexandria, and not to the Egyptian population - but
> > then Alexandria apparently had a strong European character,
> > different from the rest of Egypt. Again, Durrell's tendency in the
> > AQ to write subjective commentaries about the "City" and its people,
> > when he is actually writing about a very small section of the city's
> > population (even its European population), accentuates the neglect
> > of large portions of the city's people - even the cosmopolitan non-
> > Egyptian polpulation. This may not have happened if he gave a less
> > pervasive presence to "the City" in his novels. But then, the AQ has
> > a magnetic quality - a quality which you have described as magical
> > and transcending traditional analysis!
> >
> > Charles, I wonder whether Terry Eagleton's views are relevant in the
> > context of our discussions:
> >
> > "Durrell once described himself as a "supreme trickster", and this
> > is surely one reason why his celebrity proved so shortlived. The
> > glittering surface of his prose conceals an emotional anaesthesia,
> > for which the portentously "profound" reflections of the Quartet are
> > meant to compensate. Like many poets, his verbal sensitivity is in
> > inverse proportion to real human sympathy, a sublimated selfishness
> > evident in his life as much as his work. What was real was what he
> > could exoticise, convert to mythological archetype or high-sounding
> > platitude. His Alexandria is a country of the mind, attractive
> > precisely because its cultural and ethnic mix makes it at once
> > nowhere and everywhere. If he plundered Egypt for its symbolic
> > capital, he also groused about its "stinking inhabitants". His
> > combination of elitism and aestheticism was finally outstripped by
> > Nabokov, another rootless emigre who happened to possess a finer
> > literary talent." (From "SUPREME TRICKSTER" By Terry Eagleton, a
> > review of Ian McNiven's biography of LAWRENCE DURRELL.)
> >
> > George Steiner upheld the rich prose of Durrell as a relief from the
> > flat prose of English fiction which had set in by the 1950s. But it
> > seems to me that some critics (including perhaps Eagleton) see this
> > quality of Durrell as filling the need of a particular period. What
> > happens if you judge the novels in critical terms other than those
> > of the quality of prose?
> >
> > Best wishes
> >
> > Sumantra
> >
>
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> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 5
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 07:07:45 -0700
> From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Subject: Eagleton
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Message-ID: <4A8812B1.9040903 at gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>
> If Durrell's libertarian streak is as real as I've argued, then  
> there's
> a very clear reason why Eagleton would oppose him -- the same reason  
> why
> the likes of Frederic Jameson disregard the likes of Henry Miller.  An
> individualist view (as Eagleton describes Durrell) just doesn't jive
> with the Messianic break into a post-capitalist Utopia at the end of
> history.  That individualist may be anti-authoritarian, but that's the
> actual point -- there's no anti-authoritarian communist paradise, just
> like there's not anti-authoritarian corporate world, and most on
> libertarian left (or its other names) see slow progress rather than
> messianic moments of revolution...
>
> Just me two bits before the internet time cuts me off!
>
> -J
>
> Charles Sligh wrote:
> >> Subject:
> >> Eagleton
> >> From:
> >> "Mark Valentine" <Mark2.Valentine at btinternet.com>
> >> Date:
> >> Sat, 15 Aug 2009 21:19:17 +0100
> >>
> >> To:
> >> <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> >>
> >>
> >> Unfortunately, Eagleton cannot be regarded as a reliable critic  
> of any
> >> author outside the narrow Marxist, social-realist limit of his own
> >> convictions. Because he proceeds from this particular drab,
> >> determinist world-view, he starts from a position of prejudice  
> against
> >> Durrell, the bon viveur, the aesthete, the mystic, and then seeks  
> out
> >> reasons to denigrate him.  It is the same with other authors whose
> >> world-view or lifestyle are different to his own. Seeking  
> Eagleton's
> >> opinions about Durrell is about as useful as asking a lead weight  
> what
> >> it thinks of an orchid.
> >>
> >> Mark V
> >>
> >
> >
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 6
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 07:19:57 -0700
> From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Takes
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Message-ID: <4A88158D.80403 at gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252; format=flowed
>
> Let me also very briefly add that while in conversation with Eagleton
> during a DSC session, he admitted that he couldn't possibly read
> everything he was asked to review -- that in response to his  
> comments on
> MacNiven's bio (which includes a mistake about the number of pages,
> among other things...).  Ditto when I asked about his reading of the
> complete Quartet, which it was apparently very fashionable to be *see*
> reading at the time, for the purpose of impression the fairer sex.  He
> was, however, seemingly enthusiastic about other parts of the works  
> and
> was genuinely encouraging for the students at the session.
>
> Perhaps Pamela or Beatrice can add more comments?  I wouldn't really  
> go
> to Eagleton for serious commentary though, since he's ideologically
> against the position of the works, is disinclined to recognize their
> ironies, and likely hasn't really read them with any serious attention
> anyway.
>
> As for Said's lecture in Lebanon, it's from Mustafa Marrouchi's book,
> based on notes on the lecture from Said's papers, and Said was very
> likely referring to the film given the nature and time of his comments
> (ie: not the book itself!).  Said's only written comments on the  
> Quartet
> concern someone else's reading of the work, not the work itself...
>
> -J
>
> Bruce Redwine wrote:
> > Sumantra,
> >
> > Thanks for the interesting and informed email re a couple of "takes"
> > on Lawrence Durrell and his standing in what? ? "English letters?"
> > Charles has already given his "take," and I agree with everything he
> > said.  A couple of over-long comments, which I hope are relevant.
> >
> > I mentioned earlier Chinua Achebe's article on Conrad's /Heart of
> > Darkness /(1899), an early classic, especially ever since Eliot  
> mined
> > it for an epigraph in "The Hollow Men."  The article:  "An Image of
> > Africa:  Racism in Conrad's /Heart of Darkness"/ /(Mass. Review/ 18
> > [1977]).  Achebe is a Nigerian.  Besides labeling Conrad a racist,
> > Achebe's criticism of /HD/ basically boils down to saying, and  
> here I
> > do not quote, just paraphrase liberally, "The novella is not  
> true.  It
> > badly misrepresents Africa and Africans.  It's a gross and unfair
> > treatment of the Congo and it's people, and it's typical of the  
> racism
> > of the European colonial mind."  In short, and here's a direct  
> quote,
> > "[Conrad's] obvious racism has, however, not been addressed.  And it
> > is high time it was!"  All this I would argue strenuously against  
> and
> > say that Achebe doesn't understand what Conrad is trying to do.
> >  Moreover, I give Conrad complete latitude to say whatever he deems
> > necessary to accomplish his artistic ends, which I see in no way  
> racist.
> >
> > Achebe's arguments are relevant to this discussion, because I find
> > them very close to a lot of criticism I heard at "The Durrell
> > Celebration," held in Alexandria, Egypt, 2007, on the occasion of  
> the
> > fiftieth anniversary of the publication of /Justine.  /There many
> > Egyptian members of the audience stood up and attacked the / 
> Quartet,/
> > using arguments very similar to Achebe's.  I have no sympathy with
> > that approach.
> >
> > Now, Terry Eagleton is another prominent opponent of Durrell's work.
> >  First, I would mention Eagleton is a critic of questionable ethics,
> > since he reviewed MacNiven's biography of LD in /TLS/?, without the
> > courtesy of a complete and careful reading of the work.  Not
> > surprisingly, Eagleton commits a number of factual errors about
> > Durrell.  All this has been previously discussed on the List.   
> Second,
> > Eagleton is a Marxist critic, and Marxist like to talk about the
> > social value of literary works or "real human sympathy," as you  
> quote
> > Eagleton saying below ? none of which should be confused with the
> > ethical values of reviewers.  Finally, re Eaglerton's criticism of
> > Durrell's "country of the mind?"  Charles deals with this well.  I
> > only add, and what's wrong with that?  Joyce has his Dublin and  
> Proust
> > his Paris ? all countries of the mind, in my mind, and they will  
> endure.
> >
> > Eagleton's final barb, however, strikes home, but not as he would
> > like.  As a throwaway, he mentions Nabokov as another example of
> > "elitism and aestheticism," but an author with a "finer literary
> > talent."  And this is surely true.  Nabokov's /Lolita/ consistently
> > gets ranked as the second greatest novel of the 20th century, second
> > only to Joyce's /Ulysses/.  Durrell's problem, as I see it, is  
> that he
> > wasn't enough of an artist or, to put it another way, not hard  
> working
> > enough.  He was too gifted and writing came to him too easily.
> >  Besides his other problems of overwriting and a propensity towards
> > pomposity, he didn't revise as he should have and try to turn out a
> > finished product equal to those just mentioned.  Of course, he had
> > financial considerations ? the pressures of wives, ex-wives, and
> > children.  But I think something else caused his restlessness with
> > art, and I don't know what it was.
> >
> >
> > Bruce
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Aug 15, 2009, at 11:05 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:
> >
> >> Charles: "That sort of objection springs from the sense that
> >> literature must
> >> accurately reflect some locatable, fixed reality--or that
> >> literaturemust "reform" and "correct" misguided views of a stable
> >> reality."
> >>
> >> Bruce: "How is Durrell's viewpoint to be taken?  How is it to be
> >> judged?  Is its portrayal of Alexandria fair?  Need it be?  To be
> >> honest, I've never satisfactorily answered these questions for  
> myself,
> >> but that has not stopped me from continuing to enjoy reading the
> >> novels.  There's something in the Quartet that is magical and
> >> transcends conventional analysis,"
> >>  
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >> Charles, Bruce, thank you both very much for your thoughtful
> >> responses. As points of reference, I am reproducing above, only a
> >> small part of your respective comments.
> >>
> >> Bruce, it is some time since I read Joseph Conrad's "Heart of
> >> Darkness". I think it is Lawrence Durrell's reflective comments  
> about
> >> Alexandria, scattered all over the Quartet, and reading like a
> >> travelogue, that tend to portray the image of a colonial  
> traveller or
> >> expatriate. I don't recall the same impression in "Heart of  
> Darkness"
> >> where description is direct - but I may well be missing out on
> >> something. (The intensity of prose in Conrad's "Lord Jim" is held  
> up
> >> by George Steiner as an example of baroque writing for comparison
> >> with the prose of the AQ - I posted an extract from George  
> Steiner on
> >> ILDS some time ago.) I also think it is valid to point out that
> >> Durrell's characters are seen as limited to foreigners in  
> Alexandria,
> >> and not to the Egyptian population - but then Alexandria apparently
> >> had a strong European character, different from the rest of Egypt.
> >> Again, Durrell's tendency in the AQ to write subjective  
> commentaries
> >> about the "City" and its people, when he is actually writing  
> about a
> >> very small section of the city's population (even its European
> >> population), accentuates the neglect of large portions of the  
> city's
> >> people - even the cosmopolitan non-Egyptian polpulation. This may  
> not
> >> have happened if he gave a less pervasive presence to "the City" in
> >> his novels. But then, the AQ has a magnetic quality - a quality  
> which
> >> you have described as magical and transcending traditional  
> analysis!
> >>
> >> Charles, I wonder whether Terry Eagleton's views are relevant in  
> the
> >> context of our discussions:
> >>
> >> "Durrell once described himself as a "supreme trickster", and  
> this is
> >> surely one reason why his celebrity proved so shortlived. The
> >> glittering surface of his prose conceals an emotional anaesthesia,
> >> for which the portentously "profound" reflections of the Quartet  
> are
> >> meant to compensate. Like many poets, his verbal sensitivity is in
> >> inverse proportion to real human sympathy, a sublimated selfishness
> >> evident in his life as much as his work. What was real was what he
> >> could exoticise, convert to mythological archetype or high-sounding
> >> platitude. His Alexandria is a country of the mind, attractive
> >> precisely because its cultural and ethnic mix makes it at once
> >> nowhere and everywhere. If he plundered Egypt for its symbolic
> >> capital, he also groused about its "stinking inhabitants". His
> >> combination of elitism and aestheticism was finally outstripped by
> >> Nabokov, another rootless emigre who happened to possess a finer
> >> literary talent." (From *"**SUPREME TRICKSTER"* By Terry  
> Eagleton, a
> >> review of Ian McNiven's biography of LAWRENCE DURRELL.)
> >>
> >> George Steiner upheld the rich prose of Durrell as a relief from  
> the
> >> flat prose of English fiction which had set in by the 1950s. But it
> >> seems to me that some critics (including perhaps Eagleton) see this
> >> quality of Durrell as filling the need of a particular period. What
> >> happens if you judge the novels in critical terms other than  
> those of
> >> the quality of prose?
> >>
> >> Best wishes
> >>
> >> Sumantra
> >>
> >
> >  
> --- 
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > ILDS mailing list
> > ILDS at lists.uvic.ca
> > https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds
> >
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 7
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 10:36:23 -0400 (EDT)
> From: gkoger at mindspring.com
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Takes
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Message-ID:
>        <30610622.1250433383328.JavaMail.root at elwamui-rubis.atl.sa.earthlink.net 
> >
>
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> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 8
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 11:57:59 -0400
> From: Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Takes
> To: gkoger at mindspring.com, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Message-ID: <4A882C87.1080704 at utc.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8; format=flowed
>
> Good to see your note, Grove.
>
> >         /Lolita/ is certainly Nabokov's masterpiece, but despite its
> >         myriad allusions I find it small and self-contained. Its  
> cast
> >         of characters is limited, and its language shows signs of  
> the
> >         artificiality that in my opinion would vitiate Nabokov's
> >         subsequent works.
>
> I have several thoughts here.
>
> Why should we allow Eagleton or any other critic set the terms as
> oppositional, "either . . . or"?
>
> Why must it be the question of "Nabokov or Durrell"? or "Hemingway or
> Durrell"?  or "Al-Kharrat or Durrell"?  &c.
>
> Call me Epicurean, but I balk at that tether.  I can enjoy Scott and
> Austen, George Eliot and Lewis Carroll, Robert Browning and Swinburne.
>
> In fact, I often enjoy these "oppositionals" all the more because I  
> feel
> that I am crossing borders and braking bounds.
>
> I mark out works of literature as distinctive and memorable based upon
> how they surprise me into new experience.   The authors may have  
> written
> from any variety of motivations--high aesthetic, Anarchy, Marxist
> revolutionary, or pornography.
>
> And that would be my point of difference from Eagleton.  I am open to
> the possibility of being pleasurably surprised despite politics or  
> lack
> of politics.
>
> I do not begin by caring about those motivations, but rather with how
> surprising or successful a work seems within its own limits of form  
> and
> within the course of reading that I have conducted up to that point.
>
> In that, no doubt, I follow Swinburne, who found pleasure and power in
> the verse of Dante, Milton, and Christina Rossetti /despite/ their
> different sorts of Christian dogma.
>
> >         It does not detract from the poetic supremacy of AEschylus  
> and
> >         of Dante, of Milton and of Shelley, that they should have  
> been
> >         pleased to put their art to such use ; nor does it detract
> >         from the sovereign greatness of other poets that they should
> >         have had no note of song for any such theme. In a word, the
> >         doctrine of art for art is true in the positive sense, false
> >         in the negative; sound as an affirmation, unsound as a
> >         prohibition.
>
> >
> >
> > The /AQ/, in contrast, is far more expansive, a "masterpiece of  
> size"
> > that opens outward and has much more to say about the world. Unlike
> > Nabokov's style, its style seems to me much more rooted in the  
> natural
> > richness of the English language as it has developed over the  
> centuries.
> >
> That certainly may be true.  Contra Eagleton, I find a very human and
> humane sort of writing in the island books and the poetry of the 1940s
> and 1950s.  And Darley and Pursewarden and Balthazar are very human in
> their limits and fears and mistakes.
>
> I wonder what you mean when you say that Durrell's prose partakes of  
> the
> "natural richness of the English language as it has developed over the
> centuries"?
>
> For my own part, I would find that true in thinking about, say,
> /Justine/.  There, in certain sentences and paragraphs, Durrell  
> restores
> to currency an obsolete term; in others, he commits jarring  
> redundancies
> of word or phrase.  I have grown quite fond of those quaint little
> birthmarks and cicatrices running up and down the text.  All of that  
> is
> /Justine/--I would not ask otherwise.  I enjoy the notion that the  
> book
> was developing in real time, that it is still developing. . . .
>
> Thanks, Grove!
>
> Charles
>
> --
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> Message: 9
> Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 09:04:14 -0700
> From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Takes
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Cc: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> Message-ID: <F9E87CB4-5DF8-4E3E-8646-E19B1D0AA47A at earthlink.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
>
> James,
>
> Thanks for repeating what you said years ago.  My response to
> Eagleton's lame mea culpa is simple ? if a reviewer can't give a work
> a careful and thoughtful reading then he or she shouldn't review it.
> Seems to me that Eagleton was simply too eager to have his own name in
> print and have his own views propagated at the expense of someone
> else's hard work.
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
> On Aug 16, 2009, at 7:19 AM, James Gifford wrote:
>
> > Let me also very briefly add that while in conversation with  
> Eagleton
> > during a DSC session, he admitted that he couldn't possibly read
> > everything he was asked to review -- that in response to his
> > comments on
> > MacNiven's bio (which includes a mistake about the number of pages,
> > among other things...).  Ditto when I asked about his reading of the
> > complete Quartet, which it was apparently very fashionable to be  
> *see*
> > reading at the time, for the purpose of impression the fairer  
> sex.  He
> > was, however, seemingly enthusiastic about other parts of the works
> > and
> > was genuinely encouraging for the students at the session.
> >
> > Perhaps Pamela or Beatrice can add more comments?  I wouldn't really
> > go
> > to Eagleton for serious commentary though, since he's ideologically
> > against the position of the works, is disinclined to recognize their
> > ironies, and likely hasn't really read them with any serious  
> attention
> > anyway.
> >
> > As for Said's lecture in Lebanon, it's from Mustafa Marrouchi's  
> book,
> > based on notes on the lecture from Said's papers, and Said was very
> > likely referring to the film given the nature and time of his  
> comments
> > (ie: not the book itself!).  Said's only written comments on the
> > Quartet
> > concern someone else's reading of the work, not the work itself...
> >
> > -J
> >
> > Bruce Redwine wrote:
> >> Sumantra,
> >>
> >> Thanks for the interesting and informed email re a couple of  
> "takes"
> >> on Lawrence Durrell and his standing in what? ? "English letters?"
> >> Charles has already given his "take," and I agree with everything  
> he
> >> said.  A couple of over-long comments, which I hope are relevant.
> >>
> >> I mentioned earlier Chinua Achebe's article on Conrad's /Heart of
> >> Darkness /(1899), an early classic, especially ever since Eliot  
> mined
> >> it for an epigraph in "The Hollow Men."  The article:  "An Image of
> >> Africa:  Racism in Conrad's /Heart of Darkness"/ /(Mass. Review/ 18
> >> [1977]).  Achebe is a Nigerian.  Besides labeling Conrad a racist,
> >> Achebe's criticism of /HD/ basically boils down to saying, and  
> here I
> >> do not quote, just paraphrase liberally, "The novella is not true.
> >> It
> >> badly misrepresents Africa and Africans.  It's a gross and unfair
> >> treatment of the Congo and it's people, and it's typical of the
> >> racism
> >> of the European colonial mind."  In short, and here's a direct  
> quote,
> >> "[Conrad's] obvious racism has, however, not been addressed.  And  
> it
> >> is high time it was!"  All this I would argue strenuously against  
> and
> >> say that Achebe doesn't understand what Conrad is trying to do.
> >> Moreover, I give Conrad complete latitude to say whatever he deems
> >> necessary to accomplish his artistic ends, which I see in no way
> >> racist.
> >>
> >> Achebe's arguments are relevant to this discussion, because I find
> >> them very close to a lot of criticism I heard at "The Durrell
> >> Celebration," held in Alexandria, Egypt, 2007, on the occasion of  
> the
> >> fiftieth anniversary of the publication of /Justine.  /There many
> >> Egyptian members of the audience stood up and attacked the / 
> Quartet,/
> >> using arguments very similar to Achebe's.  I have no sympathy with
> >> that approach.
> >>
> >> Now, Terry Eagleton is another prominent opponent of Durrell's  
> work.
> >> First, I would mention Eagleton is a critic of questionable ethics,
> >> since he reviewed MacNiven's biography of LD in /TLS/?, without the
> >> courtesy of a complete and careful reading of the work.  Not
> >> surprisingly, Eagleton commits a number of factual errors about
> >> Durrell.  All this has been previously discussed on the List.
> >> Second,
> >> Eagleton is a Marxist critic, and Marxist like to talk about the
> >> social value of literary works or "real human sympathy," as you  
> quote
> >> Eagleton saying below ? none of which should be confused with the
> >> ethical values of reviewers.  Finally, re Eaglerton's criticism of
> >> Durrell's "country of the mind?"  Charles deals with this well.  I
> >> only add, and what's wrong with that?  Joyce has his Dublin and
> >> Proust
> >> his Paris ? all countries of the mind, in my mind, and they will
> >> endure.
> >>
> >> Eagleton's final barb, however, strikes home, but not as he would
> >> like.  As a throwaway, he mentions Nabokov as another example of
> >> "elitism and aestheticism," but an author with a "finer literary
> >> talent."  And this is surely true.  Nabokov's /Lolita/ consistently
> >> gets ranked as the second greatest novel of the 20th century,  
> second
> >> only to Joyce's /Ulysses/.  Durrell's problem, as I see it, is that
> >> he
> >> wasn't enough of an artist or, to put it another way, not hard
> >> working
> >> enough.  He was too gifted and writing came to him too easily.
> >> Besides his other problems of overwriting and a propensity towards
> >> pomposity, he didn't revise as he should have and try to turn out a
> >> finished product equal to those just mentioned.  Of course, he had
> >> financial considerations ? the pressures of wives, ex-wives, and
> >> children.  But I think something else caused his restlessness with
> >> art, and I don't know what it was.
> >>
> >>
> >> Bruce
> >>
> >
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