[ilds] "for an account of that sort of life, Kipling."

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 27 09:33:03 PDT 2010

Pine also says, "I should have added, that, in conversation with myself, recalling his childhood, LD said 'We all spoke Urdu'. Does this complicate matters further?"

Young Durrell a speaker of Urdu and Hindi?  Possible but likely?  What's the evidence for this in Durrell's later work and "stories" of his past?  A few scattered words of Urdu or Hindi is not evidence for speaking either language.  I know a few words and phrases of Spanish, learned in part from my mother who was a native speaker of Spanish, but I never spoke the language.  I never learned Spanish.

This is nitpicking?  I don't think so.  LGD's greatest gift was his use of metaphor.  Read "From the Elephant's Back" — it's packed with metaphors which Durrell uses to describe his method and vision/philosophy.  He hauls in Einstein's Relativity again and now adds Quantum Mechanics.  Does he know the physics and mathematics behinds these terms?  Absolutely not.  These are just metaphors he likes to play with.  Now, his childhood in India became a metaphor for something lost, unattainable, and, if you will, "devoutely to be wished":  the dream of Tibet.  That idea is very close to the "blue flower" of German Romanticism, Novalis's "die blaue Blume."  I'm suggesting that Durrell's dream of India was just that, largely a dream.  It had some basis in fact, but he later used it as a metaphor which he embellished, elaborated, and turned into a dream.  And that's the way I take his statements about speaking Hindi and Urdu.  They're not statements of fact — they're metaphors.


On Jun 27, 2010, at 6:00 AM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> Richard Pine wrote:
>>        Regarding Durrell's childhood familiarity with Hindi, cf Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy pp. 65-6 re Kipling: 'He was not merely born in India, he was brought up in India by Indian servants in an Indian environment. He thought, felt and dreamed in Hindustani'.     
> In order to make a bold point, we might even say that, later in life, 
> Durrell recalled /two/ languages from his childhood: Hindustani and Kipling.
> I think it is obvious that Durrell retained a lifelong fluency in 
> Kipling. Cf. the following remark by Durrell in 1971.
>>        Goulianos: So you think it would be better if the British were
>>        still in India?
>>        Durrell: I don't care fundamentally. The British have
>>        obviously lost their drive, and these things go in rhythms.
>>        I'm not pining for the Raj at all. I'm just saying that my
>>        childhood was influenced there. And for an account of that
>>        sort of life, Kipling.
>>        "The Fasting of the Heart," Lawrence Durrell" Conversations
>>        (123-124)
> I will re-post below Kipling's major autobiographical and fictional 
> statements on his Anglo-Indian childhood and "the vernacular idiom that 
> one thought and dreamed in."
> Meanwhile, everyone should read more Kipling.
> C&c.
>            Kipling, /Something of Myself/, "Chapter 1 -- A Very Young
>            Person"
>>            My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and
>>            golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder. This
>>            would be the memory of early morning walks to the Bombay
>>            fruit
>>            market with my /ayah/ and later with my sister in her
>>            perambulator, and of our returns with our purchases piled
>>            high
>>            on the bows of it. Our /ayah/ was a Portuguese Roman Catholic
>>            who would pray—I beside her—at a wayside Cross. Meeta, my
>>            Hindu bearer, would sometimes go into little Hindu temples
>>            where, being below the age of caste, I held his hand and
>>            looked at the dimly-seen, friendly Gods[. . . .]
>>            In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she or Meeta
>>            would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all
>>            unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we
>>            had been dressed, with the caution ‘Speak English now to Papa
>>            and Mamma.’ So one spoke ‘English,’ haltingly translated out
>>            of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in.
>            Kipling, "Baa Baa, Black Sheep"
>>            The Swedish boatswain consoled him, and he modified his
>>            opinions as the voyage went on. There was so much to see and
>>            to handle and ask questions about that Punch nearly forgot
>>            the
>>            /ayah/ and Meeta and the /hamal/, and with difficulty
>>            remembered a few words of the Hindustani once his
>>            second-speech.
>            Kipling, "The Potted Princess"
>>            NOW this is the true tale that was told to Punch and Judy,
>>            his
>>            sister, by their nurse, in the city of Bombay, ten thousand
>>            miles from here. They were playing in the veranda, waiting
>>            for
>>            their mother to come back from her evening drive. The big
>>            pink
>>            crane, who generally lived by himself at the bottom of the
>>            garden because he hated horses and carriages, was with them
>>            too, and the nurse, who was called the ayah, was making him
>>            dance by throwing pieces of mud at him. Pink cranes dance
>>            very
>>            prettily until they grow angry. Then they peck.
>>            This pink crane lost his temper, opened his wings, and
>>            clattered his beak, and the ayah had to sing a song which
>>            never fails to quiet all the cranes in Bombay. It is a very
>>            old song, and it says:
>>            Buggle baita nuddee kinara,
>>            Toom-toom niushia kaye,
>>            Nuddee kinara kanta lugga
>>            Tullaka-tullaka ju jaye.
>>            That means: A crane sat by the river-bank, eating fish
>>            /toom-toom/, and a thorn in the riverbank pricked him, and
>>            his
>>            life went away /tullakatullaka/—drop by drop. The /ayah/ and
>>            Punch and Judy always talked Hindustani because they
>>            understood it better than English.
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
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