[ilds] Man in White Sharkskin Suit

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 6 14:01:36 PDT 2010


Lawrence Durrell put modern Alexandria on the map.  I'm not discounting or belittling the work of Cavafy and Forster, but their very great contributions were simply not that well known prior to Durrell's magnum opus.  In a sense, Durrell made his predecessors, whom he fully acknowledges, famous with respect to "The City."  Look at the publishing history of Cavafy in English translation and Forster's two books on Alexandria — the flood of Cavafy translations, new editions of Forster, and critical studies of the three, all those all start pouring out after the appearance of the Quartet.  Give credit where credit is due, and that rightfully belongs to Lawrence Durrell.

Now, in Out of Egypt (1994), Aciman has written a splendid memoir of his Sephardic roots in Alexandria (a memoir, by the way, which is slightly dishonest, for readers are led to believe it is factual but others claim is partly fictional, much in the way that Durrell invented people in his travel books).  As you would expect from a specialist in French literature, Aciman is literary, and his book reads with the grace of fiction, but how he can clearly allude to Proust's Temps Perdu and not at least drop a hint of indebtedness to L. G. Durrell is beyond me.  As I argue in my Arion article on Haag's work, Aciman wants to disassociate himself from the Alexandria of Cavafy, Forster, and Durrell.  That's his choice, however.  If he wants to be excluded from that great tradition, then so be it, although I believe in at least acknowledging those predecessors, whom he most certainly is aware of.

Lucette Lugnado's book is about Cairo and her family.  Although well written, I would not call it literary, certainly not in the way that Aciman's is.  I would not be too surprised were she to say she hadn't read the Quartet.  After all, she was born when Justine was being written.  But you're right, Durrell is the "elephant in the room," and she may have felt intimidated by his omnipresence.  Hence, no direct allusions.  The influence, if such, is in the sense of Cairo as a "place" of special memories and experiences long gone.  Her use of the balcony of her family home on Malaka Nazli reminds me of similar tropes in Cavafy and Haag.  She mentions that balcony during the video of her reading in Cairo.

Read her book.  It's a moving experience.


On Jun 6, 2010, at 12:17 PM, James Gifford wrote:

> Very few critical works have mentioned Durrell and Aciman together as well:
> Porter, Roger J. "Autobiography, Exile, Home: The Egyptian Memoirs of 
> Gini Alhadeff, André Aciman, and Edward Said." /Biography/ 24.1 (2001): 
> 302-313.  (Mentions the Durrell conference, On Miracle Ground XI, in 
> Corfu, numerous times.)
> Giovannucci, Perri. The Modernizing Mission: Literature and Development 
> in North Africa. Diss. University of Miami, 2005.
> I suspect that the same way Durrell's Eliotic influences are displaced 
> by the "Old Poet of the city," Aciman and Lagnado may be avoiding the 
> elephant in the room...  I've not read the book, but are there 
> Durrellian allusions or influences, Bruce?
> Cheers,
> James
> On 06/06/10 11:40 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Thanks, Charles.  I hadn't seen Ms. Lagnado speak before.  She's
>> charming, no?  She and Andre Aciman (Out of Egypt) are primarily
>> writing about nostalgia within an Egyptian context.  I wonder why
>> neither mention or allude to Durrell.  Aciman's omission in this
>> regard seems to me particularly grevious.
>> Bruce
>> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Jun 6, 2010, at 10:15 AM, Charles Sligh<Charles-Sligh at utc.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>>> Marc,
>>>> True, Lucette Lagnado ("Loulou") was born in 1956, but her memoir is
>>>> mainly about her father, Leon Lagnado, who married her mother Edith
>>>> in
>>>> 1943.
>>> ***
>>> Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, talks
>>> about her book in Cairo Egypt
>>> http://vimeo.com/10151234
>>> ***
>>> Lucette Lagnado
>>> http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/29557/Lucette_Lagnado/index.aspx
>>> http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Man-White-Sharkskin-Suit-Lucette-Lagnado/?isbn=9780060822187?AA=index_authorIntro_29557
>>> ***
>>> Out of Egypt
>>> Published: August 12, 2007
>>> http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/books/review/Newhouse-t.html?ex=1344571200&en=15f09d3482a0665f&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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