[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Oct 23 11:19:23 PDT 2009


All of those, in my opinion, but in varying degrees, of course.   I  
add that others disagree strenuously, and I'm pretty much alone in  
making this argument.  I've touched on this before in an article in  
Arion (v. 16 [2008], no. 1).  The link is below.  Take Prospero's Cell  
as an example of what I have in mind; it was Durrell's first travel  
book, situated on Corfu, some say his best "island book."  There's a  
famous scene near the beginning of the story (p. 16 of my 1970 Faber  
ed.; the section dated 18.5.37), where Durrell and N. (his first wife,  
Nancy) go skinny-dipping in a pool below the shrine of Saint  
Arsenius.  From a rocky ledge, young Durrell drops cherries into the  
water, where they sink to the bottom and "loom like drops of blood."   
Then blonde N. dives in and retrieves them between her lips.   
Durrell's description is stunning.  The scene has the power of poetry  
and takes the reader into a world of shimmering images.  Not only  
beautiful, it is also philosophical, since the section immediately  
follows the question, "What is causality?"  And to ask that question  
is to ask what is the basis of reality.  The pool at Saint Arsenius  
provides Durrell's answer.  All somewhat overwhelming for a reader, if  
one allows oneself to be dazzled by the images.  But what about N.,  
who's been doing all the work, while her husband lies in the sun and  
dreams?  Wife Nancy is little more than a trained seal; Durrell even  
calls her an "otter."  In the book, Nancy, Durrell's wife and  
soulmate, never gets beyond being called simply N., and never has much  
of a personality.  Instead, Durrell himself dominates the narrative,  
and everyone else seems but an adjunct to his ego.  He even brings  
Count D. into the book's dedication, and Count D., who takes up much  
narrative space, is clearly, as I see it, nothing but a pompous  
pseudonym for L. G. Durrell.  I'm suggesting Lawrence Durrell has a  
very big ego.  At the beginning of Prospero's Cell, he talks about  
"the discovery of yourself" and entering Greece as one would "a dark  
crystal."  I don't think Durrell leaves Corfu having discovered much  
about his own personality, perhaps because his own prism is indeed "a  
dark crystal."



On Oct 23, 2009, at 7:36 AM, jroboston at gmail.com wrote:

> Bruce:  You wrote:  Language was his great gift, but he often used  
> it to excess and as a kind of screen, hindering "self-knowledge."
> Sorry to be dense. I am not a Durrell scholar, just a reader. Are  
> you saying that Durrell himself, due to his mental state, hid behind  
> his words, his language as a means to avoid self knowledge?  Was he  
> a word junky, an addict of his own poetic writing?  Was he engrossed  
> in his imagination, escaping from himself in some way?   Or was he  
> attempting to seduce the reader with words - did his beautiful  
> language act as an opiate?  Does the reader become mesmerized by the  
> story and therefore distracted (at least briefly) from the process  
> of life and the pursuit of self knowledge?   Julia
> Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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