[ilds] Seeking the Truth

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Sat Sep 25 03:20:57 PDT 2010


  On 9/24/10 4:50 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:

>         But my question is, did Lawrence Durrell take himself
>         "literally" or seriously when he or his spokesmen commented on
>         the relativity of truth? 

Things being as they are in this world, who could ever say?

Bringing in the words of another twentieth-century writer risks muddying 
the waters, so we must be cautious.  Different urgencies.  Different 
procedures.  And Durrell offers plenty of supposed maxims in his /Key/, 
in Pursewarden's remarks on Life, Letters, the Universe, &c.

But whenever I find someone inquiring earnestly "Did Durrell the writer 
take /anything/ seriously?  Did he actually believe in Gnosticism or 
Taoism or Yoga or x, y, or z?" I recall Beckett's 1956 response:

        "I am interested in the shape of ideas even if I do not believe
        in them. . . . It is the shape that matters."

Mind you, I imagine that Durrell the Man found a number of things in his 
life as painful and serious -- the pain of loved ones and friends, the 
loss of loved ones and friends.

Love.  Pain.  Loneliness.  I can imagine how Durrell discovered that 
those essential things, unchanged grammar of experience since Aeschylus 
and Sophocles, were no mere words.   Life is pain.  Suffer into truth.

But Durrell the writer?

        "As for Pursewarden, I remember, too, that in the very act of
        speaking thus about religious ignorance he straightened himself
        and caught sight of his pale reflection in the mirror.  The
        glass was raised to his lips, and now, turning his head, he
        squirted out upon his own glittering reflection a mouthful of
        the drink."

The shapeliness of that scene and those sentences matters, I fancy.  
Skepticism and a pretension to rational thought, followed by a flourish 
of the ludicrous.

Pursewarden the novelist, like Durrell his maker, states nothing, 
preferring dramatic incident, self-deprecation, and silence.  Darley 
reports.  Durrell shapes.  And there we have it.

Things being as they are in this world, who could ever say?

Charles

-- 
********************************************
Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu
********************************************

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