[ilds] The Wisdom of George Orwell in relation to Lawrence Durrell

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 14 08:18:25 PDT 2009


Orwell is always good to read, a very careful and true essayist.  I  
would add, however, that Durrell "the imaginative writer" poses a  
problem, when applying Orwell's rules to the former's travel books.   
Durrell is undoubtedly true to "the scenery of his own mind," but his  
"distort[ions]" and "caricature[s]" go beyond normal expectations.  I  
used to think (no longer) travel literature was factual.  In my young,  
naive days, I thought the places and people I encountered in this  
literature actually existed.  Perhaps this is generally true of the  
genre, but it's not necessarily true of Durrell's version, especially  
with respect to his "people."  In his travel books, some of his people  
are real, like Sabri in Bitter Lemons (who actually has his photo in  
the 1958 edition of The Readers Union), but some are pure invention,  
although presented as real personages, to wit, Count D. in Prospero's  
Cell (who actually gets mentioned in the dedication).  Now, why does  
Durrell do this?  Partly Shandean playfulness, I think, and partly the  
need to tell a good story.  And something else — Durrell's sense of  
reality is highly colored by his imagination, and he doesn't really  
distinguish between the two.   As Martine (another invention) says in  
Sicilian Carousel, "We have been brought up to believe that facts are  
not dreams—and of course they are'" (p. 36).


On Oct 13, 2009, at 6:31 PM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:

> RW Hedges has just sent me a wonderful collection of essays by  
> George Orwell, entitled "Books V. Cigarettes"
> I have have downloaded a section from an essay The Prevention of  
> Literature which I feel applies to much of our recent postings on  
> Durrell. Here it is
> Above a quite low level, literature is an attempt to influence the  
> viewpoint of one's contemporaries by recording experience. And so  
> far as freedom of expression is concerned, there is not much  
> difference between a mere journalist and the most ‘unpolitical’  
> imaginative writer. The journalist is unfree, and is conscious of  
> unfreedom, when he is forced to write lies or suppress what seems to  
> him important news; the imaginative writer is unfree when he has to  
> falsify his subjective feelings, which from his point of view are  
> facts.He may distort and caricature reality in order to make his  
> meaning clearer, but he cannot misrepresent the scenery of his own  
> mind; he cannot say with any conviction that he likes what he  
> dislikes, or believes what he disbelieves. If he is forced to do so,  
> the only result is that his creative faculties will dry up. Nor can  
> he solve the problem by keeping away from controversial topics.  
> There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and  
> least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and  
> loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of  
> everyone's consciousness. (pp 21 - 41)
> This whole essay is well worth a read and as relevent today as it  
> was in 1946. complete text at
> orwell.ru/library/essays/prevention/english
> Cheers
> David Green
> 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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