[ilds] Aesthetics and Durrell

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Thu Sep 24 05:07:09 PDT 2009

Thanks for reviving, Sumantra.

I destroyed my MacBook, so I have no steady email access and cannot read or post at length.

But for the following passages from _Justine_, I would notice -who- writes these Great Literary Thoughts and -when- he speaks them.  I think this recognition impacts your reading and your claims below that these passages represent the novelist's own voice.  I think this recognition might even help you make the point, but I do not have time to chase the implications.

The passages copied below come from the early unnamed Darley, writing early in the process of his development--or at least early in his "process."  AS I continue to read the _Quartet_,I am increasingly uncertain what if anything Darley learns over the course of the novels.

However, I am confident that Durrell as a writer learns much over the course of composing and publishing his novels.  

One of his uncanny discoveries comes with the narrative structure, the storytelling form of the _Quartet_.  As I make my way through the novels, I become increasingly aware that GREAT LITERARY THOUGHTS offered by Darley or Arnauti or Pursewarden &c. may or may not give insight, may or may not be romantic balderdash, effected poses, &c.  The arrival of Pursewarden and his ironies makes me more attentive of the limits of Darley &c.

That is all actually quite wonderful, I think.   Durrell giveth.  Durrell taketh away.  Few other books have that degree of surprise in them.




Durrell's ruminations on the activities associated with artistic creation are expressed through the narrator at the beginning of 'Justine' :

"I have been looking through my papers tonight. Some have been converted to kitchen uses, some the child has destroyed. This form of censorship pleases me for it has the indifference of the natural world to the constructions of art...After all, what is the good of a fine metaphor for Melissa when she lies buried deep as any mummy in the shallow tepid sand of the black estuary?..."

"...I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations. The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this - that only there, in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality be reordered, reworked and made to show its significant side. Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold - the meaning of the pattern. For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfil it in its true potential - the imagination."  
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Charles-Sligh at utc.edu

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