Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 31 10:58:27 PDT 2010

I've read Bowker's biography but only parts of MacNiven's.  Still, I find your comments fresh, insightful, and provocative.  Durrell's flight from England has been discussed before, with the majority of the opinion that he wasn't temperamentally suited for the discipline of Cambridge or Oxford.  My opinion is that Oxbridge would have done young Durrell a lot of good.  MacNiven also suggests that Durrell may not have even taken the entrance examinations to Cambridge (p. 697, n. 71).  So, LD's claim that he failed the exams "about eight times" (The Paris Review, 22, Autumn-Winter 1960) may have been a lie.  The pattern seems to be that Durrell dissembles and throws up smoke screens.  That, I think, accounts for the confusion you've detected.  As some critic has said of Iago in Othello, the problem is not that Iago lacks motivation for his crime, rather that he provides too many reasons for hating the Moor.  I too am confused about Durrell's explanation(s) of his motivation.

You're onto something about the son mimicking his father the engineer.  (The lost father haunts David Mountolive:  "The defection of his father stood always between them as their closest bond" [Mountolive, p. 97].)  I like the analogy.  I also like bringing in Cézanne and his concern for an underlying structure (although I can't recall LD citing Cézanne as one of his "exemplars").  Re Space-Time, I've finished another reading of J. Frank's classic, The Idea of Spatial Form (1945, 1991), which treats Modernism's use of time as space.  Had Durrell read that, he would have realized his project wasn't novel.  Proust, Joyce, and Djuna Barnes were all ahead of him.  He might have learned that at Cambridge.


On Aug 30, 2010, at 6:08 PM, William Apt wrote:

> Dear all:
> QUESTION:  I'm reading Prof. MacNiven's Durrell bio, which is great.  But am a bit confused regarding a passage I encountered today.  On page 93:  the discussion about Durrell in his 20s not having direction, but realizing he must follow some defined path in the form of occupation, or else find his life merely a search for meaning that does not net the Big Answer.  Do I understand Durrell to have believed that ANY defined occupational path was neverthless a cop-out?  Even the pursuit of art?  But if one lacks talent AND refuses to get a regular job and just continues, like so many bohemians, to flounder their way through life, how is that courageous?  How does that not end in "doom"?  And then how is the pursuit of art by one with talent cowardly?  What does he mean that cowardice is the only escape?  I'm completely lost on this one.
> OBSERVATION:  For those better versed in Durrell, please forgive me.  What I about to say may already be well known.  On Page 94 of the bio, I realized for the first time that, contrary to Durrell's image of himself as completely different from that of his father, the two were quite similar in a fundamental way:  Durrell approached the construction of his portrayal of the pysches of his characters like his father did the construction of public works projects.  "Space against Time curves and stresses, structures and dimensions..."  Durrell was every bit the engineer that his father was, only their materials were different.  Durrell was like Cezanne in that way:  both sought to reveal the dynamic inner structure of things.
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