[ilds] Finally (2)

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed Jun 2 15:35:49 PDT 2010


Hey Bruce,

Pedantry is always welcome -- my wife's BA was in Classics, so I have
such things explained to me regularly...

I think the timeless quality of the gnomic aorist is the crucial
element, but the aphoristic component could be significant as well.
It's easy to forget that his last attempt at a novel was intended to
be entirely in asides or aphorisms.

/The Black Book/ was first published in 1938 but was in large part
drafted as early at 1935 and the start of 1936 (not 1977 -- Faber
edition?).

But, I do think we've wandered a bit from David Wilde's suggestion
that we attend to Durrell's sense of time.  David, where were you
wanting to take us?  I'm intrigued...

My sense of the subsequent addition of "in time" to the contradiction
of truth is partly the structure of the Quartet itself as a formal
work as well as a more mystical notion of the nunc stans, to which
Durrell also refers a few times.  Both notions would turn attention
back to Billy's comment on Darley's lack of reaction -- to that I can
only say, Durrell doesn't really have any characters, does he?  He
says so overtly in /Tunc/ & /Nunquam/, but I think it applies to the
Quartet as well.  Charles might be able to comment on the mss. more,
but to my understanding, the character identities are fairly flexible.
 For the Quintet notebooks, things are often written without a
character, which he'd simply add while typing it up.  The Quintet is
expressly "a book full of spare parts of other books, of characters
left over from other lives, all circulating in each other’s
bloodstreams…. Be ye members of one another" (693).  He was also very
keen on D.H. Lawrence's notions of allotropic identity in the novel
from the mid-1930s onward, so a stable character wasn't really a part
of his oeuvre at any point, in my opinion.

I'd also hesitate over a directly link between Darley and Durrell.
Durrell voiced his identification most overtly with Pursewards, and
while Darley shares many of LD's traits and experiences, as well as
his initials, he's also quite clearly a different bloke.  Apart from
the slippage between an author, a narrator, and a character, I don't
think Darley would stand up as either a hero or an authorial voice in
this instance.

I'd also avoid the Durrell/Gregory elision.  Durrell's pretty clear in
his disapproval of Gregory, to whom he gave the name Herbert at the
same time as he was derogating Herbert Read to Miller.  If there's a
Durrell figure in that novel, it's clearly Lawrence Lucifer rather
than Death Gregory, though again there are traits of Durrell in both
of them as well as others.  Durrell does appear as a character in the
novel as well when he lets folks foolishly borrow his car...

Cheers,
James

On 2 June 2010 13:16, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Let me be pedantic.  English doesn't have the exact equivalent of the Greek
> "gnomic aorist," so if you want to capture the sense of the Greek aorist, a
> past tense, you have to use the English present.  John Lyons, a British
> semanticist, gives examples of "gnomic" expressions in English ("It never
> rains but it pours"), and they're all in the present (Semantics, II, 681
> [1977]).
> Durrell, on the other hand, has his own special usage of "gnomic aorist."
>  Charles has provided passages from The Black Book (1977), where
> Durrell/Gregory asks, "Shall we write of her in the gnomic aorist?" (42) and
> later, "It is forced upon me to write of you always in the gnomic aorist"
> (243).  Well, this is clearly impossible, since English has no such tense;
> moreover, these passages are in the present.  But Durrell is breaking new
> ground, perhaps "Heraldic," and learning a "new vocabulary," so this fits in
> nicely.
> I believe that here you can see Durrell being influenced by his study of
> Greek on Corfu and learning new ways to deal with Time.  I also wonder if
> Durrell latched onto "gnomic" for personal reasons, the word being directly
> related to gnome.
>
> Bruce
>
> On Jun 2, 2010, at 11:44 AM, James Gifford wrote:
>
> Durrell describes the Gnomic Aorist in his letters to Henry Miller
> while describing /The Black Book/ in conjunction with the historic
> present (I'm annotating things at the moment and stumbled over this
> just a few days ago...).  It's closely tied to his notion of the
> Heraldic Universe, likely in early 1937.  Someone with a copy of the
> letters handy may want to look up the actual passage.
>
> It's an ongoing concept for Durrell, and while that one statement is
> in the present tense (truth *is*), I don't think we should dismiss
> David's idea.  It rings of the truth to my ear...
>
> Cheers,
> James
>
> On 2 June 2010 11:12, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> "Gnomic aorist" usually applies to Attic Greek.  Dunno if Modern Greek has
>
> that tense.  From my very little Greek, I understand the "gnomic aorist" to
>
> be a past tense, the aorist (i.e., with the sense of completion) that
>
> represents some truth.  As the venerable H. W. Smyth says, in Greek Grammar
>
> (1956), "The aorist may express a general truth.  The aorist simply states a
>
> past occurrence and leaves the reader to draw the inference from a concrete
>
> case that what has occurred once is typical of what often occurs" (sec.
>
> 1931).  The aphorism, "Truth is what most contradicts itself in time," is in
>
> the present tense, not the past.  Gnomic, yes; aorist, no.  Durrell,
>
> however, definitely likes gnomic; he advocates a gnomic style somewhere.
>
>  Whether he was influenced by Classical or possibly Modern Greek is a very
>
> interesting question, which could fall under that rubric of Durrell's
>
> diction, previously discussed.
>
> Bruce
>
>
> On Jun 2, 2010, at 7:57 AM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>
> And don't let us forget the 'gnomic aorist' either in this typically
>
> provocative Durrellian sentence and the cleverly disguised use of his ever
>
> enigmatically and yet precisely ambiguous constantly shifting sand-dune-like
>
> metaphor of the greek infinitive for 'duration'.
>
> David, could you unpack this for US? For me, abyway.
>
> Bill
>
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> --
> ---------------------------------------
> James Gifford, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
> School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
> University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
> Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
> Voice: 604-648-4476
> Fax: 604-648-4489
> E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu
> http://alpha.fdu.edu/~jgifford
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> 842 Cambie Street
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>



-- 
---------------------------------------
James Gifford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
Voice: 604-648-4476
Fax: 604-648-4489
E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu
http://alpha.fdu.edu/~jgifford

842 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2P6 Canada



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