[ilds] Seeking the Truth

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sun Sep 26 12:19:15 PDT 2010

Hi Bruce,

Were I to make a particular statement the philosophical crux of my work, 
I doubt it would be said between snorts into dirty laundry...  There are 
other more nuanced articulations of this notion in the Quartet, and I 
think the formal structure of the work itself is the most important.

But, I do contest your definition of "investigation."  Tell me, in the 
sentence "an investigation of modern love" (which we know underwent 
significant revisions due to editorial pressure outside of the author), 
how "real" is "modern love" in the real world?  What, pray tell, is 
"love" in a quantified sense in the "real world" of measurable objects, 
particles, and physical laws.  Moreover, what does "modern" mean as an 
adjective to the material object "love"?  Or do you think 
"investigation" may have a slightly different sense here than in "an 
investigation into a crime" or "an investigation of how gravity 
influences a ball"?

Alternatively, doesn't it seem obvious that this is a fictional novel 
discussing social realities?  Are not social realities essentially 
imaginary?  Are love, memories, marriage, deceit, or racism "real" or 
"true" in the same way that a rock is?  I'm afraid I don't see the use 
in collapsing the multivalence.

So, let's go back to one of your examples: "And Pursewarden on another 
occasion, but not less memorably: 'If things were always what they 
seemed, how impoverished would be the imagination of man'" (/AQ/ 216). 
I'd be inclined to note how "imagination" appears to be an intrinsic 
part of "seemed" here.  Madam, I know not seems...  Just as Hamlet tells 
us he is not capable of seeming to be something he is not, we the 
audience know this to be untrue -- Hamlet constantly "seems."  Moreover, 
much likehis mother's inability to see his father's ghost, she sees him 
not, yet all there is she sees.  She must claim to see all that there is 
in order to state that he is not there -- otherwise, she'd admit to the 
possibility that people can see different things.  Hamlet likewise 
collapses the existence of different phenomenal worlds when he says he 
cannot "seem" to other people, when in fact he cannot occupy their 
position to see himself...  For Durrell, "things" (likely of the class 
we would use to lump together love, faith, deceit, trust and other 
social "things") are like Hamlet -- they "seem" without always giving 
away their reality.  As social "things," the act of "seeming" is likely 
the only part that actually exists.  Hence, "the imagination of man" is 
a crucial component.  Because we cannot say "all there is I see," we 
must fill in the gaps with our imagination, especially when we follow 
the iron chains of memory -- the city is half-imagined yet wholly 
"real," and that real has a lot more to do with T.S. Eliot's "Unreal 
city" than it does with "real" in the sense of a rock.  It's a social 
reality in which half of it is imagined and the other half "seeming," 
and that's our social form of reality...

Does that split the hair a bit?  I'd rather breath through the eye of 
the needle for a second than try to put that split hair through it...


On 26/09/10 9:44 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> James,
> Two comments below. I focus on the implication of Durrell's use of "truth."
> On Sep 25, 2010, at 12:48 PM, James Gifford wrote:
>>> He calls the Quartet an "investigation," so what is he investigating?
>>> His own imagination? No. He's making claims about the world we live
>>> in, and that's why I call the statement "truth is what most
>>> contradicts itself" a bit of seductive nonsense.
>> Actually, it was originally an investigation of bisexual love...
>> Revisions shifted the meaning, or I suppose the truth of the
>> investigation came to contradict itself in time, so to speak.
> Durrell's 1957 Note to /Balthazar/ (deleted in 1962) talks to the
> reader, presents his program, and then says, "The central topic of this
> book is an investigation of modern love." An "investigation" pertains to
> the real world — that's the usual sense of the word.
>> Most bluntly, "contradicts itself" is a statement about the quotidian
>> truths of characters in a novel who find that what they had thought was
>> true was not and that their senses of "true events" change from person
>> to person, perspective to perspective.
> That may be taken as Darley's interpretation or reapplication of
> Balthazar's statement /(AQ/ 277), but that is /not/ the sense of
> Balthazar's original comment /(AQ/ 216), when he blows his nose in "an
> old tennis sock" and makes his pronouncement. That first sentence
> doesn't have a specific reference, so "truth" must be taken as a pure
> concept, whose validity Balthazar mocks by blowing his nose. This sense
> pervades the /Quartet,/ as I quoted earlier: "Humility! The /last trap/
> that awaits the ego in search of absolute truth" /(AQ/ 192). Moreover,
> Durrell's corollary to the relativity of truth is his substitution of
> the imagination for truth. So, Balthazar's first statement is
> immediately followed by Darley recalling one of Pursewarden's
> observations: "And Pursewarden on another occasion, but not less
> memorably: 'If things were always what they seemed, how impoverished
> would be the imagination of man'" /(AQ/ 216). What interests me is the
> recurrent pattern, stated as an oversimplification — deny the validity
> of reality and then leap into the imagination.
> Bruce

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