[ilds] the rope trick

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sat Jun 19 23:35:56 PDT 2010

Hey Bruce,

What about the Nunc Stans in the speech?  I thought you'd have been all 
over that...  I've even done up a lovely footnote on it too.

Perhaps most interesting is LD's comment on other grand charlatans, such 
as Yeats and Eliot on mysticism.  Then again, isn't every mystic a fake 
in some way?

Otherwise, I still say I recall many things from my childhood that I'm 
sure are pure invention.  I've never *really* seen horrible borribles 
(antiauthoritarians that they are), nor did a bear really chase me in 
the woods...  I wouldn't have outrun it.  I'm also prone to think the 
rope trick is more than just an orientalist ruse to keep a flagging 
audience's attention -- Durrell wasn't above that, especially when he 
was hired specifically to entertain a middle-brow audience, though I 
think he was fairly self-conscious of this as an ethnocentric "trick". 
I just think there's more at work in this instance.

I'd rather ask what it means that Durrell, a non-patrial barred from 
entering or settling in Britain without a visa (palpable at the time of 
the speech), would recall a fake orientalist image of India when 
discussing it with a French audience?  How "in-between" is his position 
when both his Englishness and his Indianness are faked or based on 
cultural stereotypes that may never have existed?  Well, probably about 
as fake as anyone else -- how many Americans think they get a phone call 
if the police arrest them?  They don't -- it's a faked idea for films, 
though many police officers believe it too.  We all know things, 
especially about our childhoods, that are total forgeries yet form 
crucial parts of our identities.  That's (to me) because those 
identities are as faked as televangelists and late night salesmen, yet 
they are necessary.

I'd be more inclined to look to the Indian double constructed for Walsh 
in /Pied/ who can recite Shakespeare (a striking scene), such that 
neither speak each other's nor their own languages fully -- setting the 
anguish of exile from India and that self-identity in his first novel 
against this later speech in French (!! when not English) and its 
attempts to assert a non-English identity while at the same time playing 
on the audience's orientalist exoticisms strikes me as a crucial part of 
Durrell's inescapable in-betweenness.

What if one's nunc stans contained inescapable estrangement?

Cheers from Portland, where I was not the only person to mention 
Durrell's works during the Space Between conference!  I hope my sleepy 
comments make at least a little sense...


More information about the ILDS mailing list