[ilds] On First Discovering Lawrence Durrell

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 13 11:26:07 PDT 2009

Once again, I think, David has hit upon a key point in reading and  
appreciating Durrell, namely, his generalizations are usually  
idiosyncratic and often wrong.  But the world the reader enters and  
enjoys, with the avidity of a child reading fairy tales — that is  
Durrell's world, largely imaginative, almost wholly invented, and  
greatly distorted.  One of my favorite chapters in his writings is  
"How to Buy a House" in Bitter Lemons.


On Oct 12, 2009, at 5:01 PM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:

> Sumantra wrote: It seems to me that on the ILDS forum, quite a few  
> people to be gripped by
> Durrell's writing first read him as adolescents.
> I can't speak for all, but I first discovered LD as an adolescent  
> via My Family & other Animals. The character of Larry and his loony  
> friends was so hilariously invoked by brother Gerald that I had to  
> know more about him. From here I discovered Prospero's Cell, then  
> the other Island books. My mother showed me Justine which I  
> attempted as a teenager but could get into until I was much older. I  
> still think the island books contain some of LD's finest writing -  
> and stereotypes to which I wish to return.
> Others may have noticed that LD trades in 'national  
> characteristics'. Thus we have apes in nightgowns, father Nicholas  
> and Manoli, the typical greeks, Sabri the Turk. On page 45 of Bitter  
> Lemons Durrell writes "...history - the lamp that illuminates  
> national charater.."
> Sabri is described on page 39 as:-
> But what was truly Turkish about him was the physical repose with  
> which he confronted the world. No Greek can sit still without  
> fidgeting, tapping a foot or a pencil, jerking a knee, or making a  
> popping noise with his tongue. The turk has a monolithic poise, an  
> air of reptilian concentration and silence.
> This is charming but a generalisation surely. No Greek! I saw many  
> Greeks in Paros sitting outside taverns with only cigarette smoke  
> wafting drifting up from their fingers telling of any movement and  
> they would sit there for hours. Above, the Greeks are warmly  
> described, but there is menace in the Turk - reptilian concentration  
> like a snake about to strike. National characteristics can be a  
> convenient tool for a writer and can be amusing for a reader (or  
> annoying) but they cannot ever be entirely accurate. What for  
> example is the American national character, or the English, the  
> Australian? The French, as personified by Pombal, are lazy,  
> fornicating types whose Gallic charm masks a philosophical  
> ossification. And on the point of philosophical ossification that  
> Durrell mentions in his description of Pombal, I think Durrell is  
> saying that French thinking begins in excitement and discovery and  
> ends in some form of armour proper, a stereotyped response.
> To illustrate this point I take the military inventiveness of the  
> french under the early Napoleon which hardened into a standard  
> doctrine of bludgeoning aggression carried right through to World  
> War One where red trousered French infantry enthusiastically charged  
> German machine guns to no avail. A strategic and tactical doctrine  
> was no longer being thought about, merely enacted as the proper  
> response. This ossification is what I think Durrell means when  
> describing Pombal and the Gallic temperament.
> David
> 16 William Street
> Marrickville NSW  2204
> +61 2 9564 6165
> 0412 707 625
> dtart at bigpond.net.au
> _______________________________________________

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