[ilds] Lawrence and Gerald Durrell's Corfu

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Thu Oct 8 04:58:52 PDT 2009


Lawrence and Gerald Durrell's Corfu

   The Durrell brothers discovered the island of Corfu in their youth, and became enchanted with its beauties but also its people and the 'aroma' of the Ionian Sea, which crop up frequently in their writings later.

   Gerald Durrel grew up to become a naturalist, zookeeper, author and television presenter and his older brother Lawrence became a noted novelist, poet and travel writer.

   Lawrence was 23, and already married, when his family -- his wife, mother, younger brother and sister -- settled on Corfu in 1935, and Gerald was barely 10. Lawrence became intrigued with the ancient and Modern Greek language, while he also started to write poems and broaden his circle of contacts with several Greek writers.

   Lawrence later wrote about the family's carefree years on the island, the tenderness and innocence of the people of Corfu in the mid-war years, in two of his books: Prospero's Cell (1945) and Blue Thirst (1975).

   The island's quaint and unadulterated beauty also inspired Gerald who, too, later wrote about the family's life and experiences on Corfu in his anecdote filled book My Family and Other Animals (1962), which brings with his great affection for the island and its people.

   But the people of Corfu, too, did not remain untouched by the Durrell brothers' stay on the island, and the memories linger on despite the passing of time.

   The locals proudly talk about the two British writers who had their island their second home, and never miss an opportunity to point out to visitors the 'white house' in the tiny village of Kalamos where the Durrells lived.

   Today, the house is a hostel and its current owners have taken care to keep alive the memories of the Durrells and that carefree epoch.

   The Durrell brothers have inspired many people, including British writer Richard Pine who has not only studied the brothers' ties with the island, but also established in 2002 The Durrell School of Corfu, which offers a wide range of activities, such as weekly seminars on the brothers' writing and the rich cultural heritage of the Mediterranean, excursions, and lectures on the same subject.

   Pine, who himself also professes to be a "Corfu lover", told ANA/MPA that the aim of the School is to organise international seminars on Corfu with speakers from all over the world, on the themes that the Durrell brothers were keen on, such as culture, literature, zoology, ecology and the arts.

   Clarifying the reasons behind his vision of establishing such a School, he noted that Corfu was a very important place for the Durrell brothers. Lawrence, he said, was just 23 years old when he moved there, but as he as written in his books, he discovered himself on Corfu. Greece gives you the ability to discover yourself, Lawrence would say, according to Pine. As for Gerald, he was still a child when he went to Corfu, but his experiences there put their mark on his later course.

   "That is why I chose Greece, and particularly Corfu" to set up the School, Pine said.

   Next May, the School is organising a seminar on Ionian history and culture, which will include not only Corfu but the other Ionian islands as well, such as Cephallonia and Ithaka, while a large delegation of visitors is also awaited from North America.

   The seminars offered by the School are attended by people of all ages and educational level: from university professors and pensioners to young people seeking new experiences. 
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Charles-Sligh at utc.edu

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