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

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 27 14:06:16 PDT 2010


I don't see a problem here.  I'm not arguing about the literary history of the 20th century.  I'm focusing on a man and his use of language in a non-literary context.  Fiction, by definition, is language that is untrue.  Metaphors are not literally true.  To say someone has "eagle eyes" is literally false.  Now, in conversation, statements can be factually true or false.  That's why we have the word lie, and we all know what that means.  That's why the law requires an oath to be taken prior to testimony.  I'm saying Durrell's supposed statements of fact — "My first language was Hindi" ("From the Elephant's Back") and "We all spoke Urdu" (according to R. Pine) — were most probably lies — lies that Durrell turned into his own private myth about India and Tibet.  Did he believe these lies?  Probably not at first, but later yes, or so I think.  Throughout Durrell's oeuvre there're many, many claims about the illusionary nature of Reality, where a character says, as in The Black Book, "Everything is plausible now because nothing is real."  Similar examples can be found in Prospero's Cell, the Quartet, Sicilian Carousel, etc.  I think Durrell truly believed this.  So, if someone lives in a world where everything is possible, where Truth is just another illusion, where metaphors reign supreme and can be constructed according to one's fancy, then lying in everyday conversation is probably the least of one's worries.


On Jun 27, 2010, at 12:19 PM, James Gifford wrote:

> Bruce,
> I thought you were talking about metaphors (and in some respects, I 
> should think a metonym) -- if all metaphors are lies, haven't I just 
> lied in stating this?  What, after all, do you think of Durrell as a 
> highly metafictional author in an age of realism?  That's quite a stand 
> to have taken at the time, contra the Auden Generation and contra the 
> Angry Young Men -- rather than a realism that teaches us what to be 
> rather than what we really are (ideology), Durrell refuses the investment.
> I don't expect fiction authors to tell me the literal truth, especially 
> when they've made a point of emphasizing the fact that fiction is 
> fiction, yet the literal truth (realism, which I see as ideology) is 
> what Durrell's contemporaries had on sale.  I'm more than happy to 
> condemn how their texts function, how their texts are put to a use, and 
> what they've done in their lives, but at some point the work has to 
> stand as fiction -- if not, we can never listen to Wagner, read Shelley, 
> nor enjoy much art at all...  In part, I think that's why the realism of 
> the 30s has fallen to the "unreal"ism of the 20s in much literary criticism.
> Tell me more about how you think of Durrell's metaphors?  Form, 
> function, and trends?  Whether or not he believed them (and he seems to 
> have snapped back and forth quite easily depending on the audience and 
> forum) strikes me as a matter for those how lived with him, and that's 
> none of us...  Did Eliot really believe he was a catalyst?  Who cares? 
> But it does interesting things for his works.
> Cheers,
> James
> On 27/06/10 10:02 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Charles,
>> The real question is, to what extent did Durrell know what he was doing?  My opinion:  sometimes he lied knowingly, but he did that so often that lies became Truth, for him anyway.
>> Bruce
>> On Jun 27, 2010, at 9:37 AM, Charles Sligh wrote:
>>> Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>>> And that's the way I take his statements about speaking Hindi and
>>>> Urdu.  They're not statements of fact — they're metaphors.
>>> Yes, /now/ you are getting a sense of the thing.
>>> C&c.
>>> --
>>> ********************************************
>>> Charles L. Sligh
>>> Assistant Professor
>>> Department of English
>>> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
>>> charles-sligh at utc.edu
>>> ********************************************
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