[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 29, Issue 13_Some Responses from Sumantra Nag

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Mon Aug 17 04:25:30 PDT 2009

I'm sorry my post should have gone from this (my usual) email address sumantranag at gmail.com and I am sending it again from this address.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Sujata Nag 
  To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
  Sent: Monday, August 17, 2009 4:31 PM
  Subject: Re: ILDS Digest, Vol 29, Issue 13_Some Responses from Sumantra Nag

  Thank you all for so many well considered comments on my post on Issue 12.

  1. "Denise Tart & David Green" <dtart at bigpond.net.au>
  Subject: [ilds] Which seedy Poem?
  '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 [which?] poem are you refering to?' 
  David, I was referring to 'LAWRENCE DURRELL' by Charles Bryant. It is not the poem that I would describe as seedy - I was speaking of the images of seediness in the poem, which were reflections on Durrell, lines such as these:

  "Really rather a grubby little man!
  Stink of Gauloises and last night's spilt gin.
  His publishers deferential but demanding
  just like the latest mistress, some old biddy
  reeking of the casbah and stale sex."

  2. Attached is a file with three reviews by Kenneth Rexroth. After very favourable reviews of Justine and Balthazar, while reviewing Clea, he points to what he sees as a decline in overall control of plot and structure due to the pressures of time. ("Each year he put off writing and then wrote carelessly, perhaps even defiantly. What had been complex and subtle and ironic turned into something flimsy, schematic and flashy.") Rexroth has drawn from Meredith, Hardy, Conrad and Ford (like many other critics writing on Durrell's AQ) in his reviews some of which very enthusiastically place Durrell very high among writers of the 20th century. But this document may be well-known among those familiar with Lawrence Durrell's works and the critical literature on them, and I do not know where Rexroth's reviews would  feature among critical comments on the AQ. I am also attaching the whole review by Eagleton, in case it's of interest.  

  3. Grove has said, "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." From what I have read of Nabokov - and I recall some exquisite descriptive passages - I would agree with all the points of this comparison. I am also enclosing (once more, because of its relevance to your specific observation) a file on "Hemingway, media culture, and the impoverishment of modern English". An extract from George Steiner is given in this essay, which relates to your point about Durrell's prose and its roots in the richness of the English language:  

  But this does not mean that this jeweled and coruscated style springs full-armed from Durrell's personal gift. He stands in a great tradition of baroque prose. In the seventeenth century, Sir Thomas Browne built sentences into lofty arches and made words ring like sonorous bells. Robert Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, used the same principal device as Durrell: richness through accumulation, the marshaling of nouns and epithets into great catalogues among which the eye roves in antiquarian delight. The feverish, clarion-sounding prose of De Quincey is a direct ancestor to that of Justine. And more recently, there is the example of Conrad. In the later parts of Lord Jim and throughout The Rescue, Conrad uses words with the sumptuous exuberance of a jeweler showing off his rarest stones. Here also, language falls upon the reader's senses like brocade...

  Hence a writer like Durrell, with his Shakespearean and Joycean delight in the sheer abundance and sensuous variety of speech, may strike one as mannered or precious. But the fault lies with our impoverished sensibility."

  - George Steiner, "Lawrence Durrell I: The Baroque Novel" (from Critical Essays on Lawrence Durrell) 

  4. Bruce, regarding Achebe on Conrad. My wife Sujata who is Associate Professor teaching English Literature in a college of Delhi University, has taught Achebe and is familiar with Achebe's criticism of Conrad. Knowing Conrad's works as she does, she is able to take an independent view of Achebe's criticism. But she has offered to give me Achebe's critique of Conrad for me to read for myself! Perhaps I should read it before responding to your point. 

  By the way may I say how much I enjoyed reading your account of the Durrell Celebrations in Alexandria on the Web. 

  Your view that "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?" I think Rexroth has made some observations in his last review (attached) which you might find of interest, but they may not be unique among those who know Durrell's works and the progress of their composition. And I do not know how much weight you would give to these reviews.   

  5. James [Your Message: 6 Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 07:19:57 -0700 From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> Meeting Eagleton and comments on Said]. For me, these accounts and obsrvations are very enlightening. The point about Eagleton's admitting that he had not read the full texts (the biography and the novels of the AQ) has, I think been made before, and - in my opinion - it definitely reduces the importance of his criticism. I did not know that Said too, was writing without a personal reading of the AQ.

  Regards to all


  P.S. I have reproduced a certain amount of text (from an attached file quoting George Steiner) on the email, and I have attached some documents. I don't know if it's necessary to request you to please take a look at the copyright issues specified in these various documents.

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