[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 28 11:55:05 PST 2011


Meta,

Thanks for picking up on this important topic/novel.  Re Durrell's choice of personal names in The Dark Labyrinth, the first consideration is that he himself called the novel an "extended morality" (Durrell-Miller Letters, 1962, 1963, p. 201), i.e., an allegory.  And allegories, as you know, personify ideas.  The big examples of that form, in English, are Spenser's Faerie Queene and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.  These are both Renaissance works, early and late, so once again we have Durrell harkening back to the great period of English lit.  In this regard, the novel's most interesting character, Campion, is also the name of a Renaissance medical doctor and poet, Thomas Campion (1567-1620).  Durrell's usage of names fits the allegorical tradition.  He also does this, however, elsewhere in his fiction, and I'd venture to say that the names of Durrell's characters most always mean something special  They are rarely, if ever, arbitrary.  It's useful to recall that Durrell himself considered going into the medical profession and instead became a poet.  Thus, Campion is a good alter ego for the author himself.

I agree that the "Roof of the World" chapter in The Dark Labyrinth is one of the best Durrell ever wrote.  He pulls it off, writing about a Utopian place, and succeeds where James Hilton in Lost Horizon does not succeed in describing his Shangri-La.  Hilton's Utopia is mawkish, Durrell's is not.  Of course, Durrell's mountaintop realm is very Romantic, but the irony is Romantic too, the sad self-consciousness that forces the narrator to conclude, "The roof of the world did not really exist, except in their own imaginations."  That statement echoes again and again throughout Durrell's oeuvre.  It reminds me that repetitive "Boum" in Forster's Marabar caves.

Much remains to be talked about in this extraordinary novel.  On a personal note, when I first read it in 1962, I recall that when Fearmax meets his fate in the labyrinth, at the end of "In the Darkness," I was terrified.  Durrell can tell a good horror story.  Durrell's terror, however, later turns into a kind of Romantic Irony.

Best wishes on your translation into Slovenian.



Bruce




On Jan 28, 2011, at 2:58 AM, Meta Cerar wrote:

> Actually there are more »18th century« names in the Dark Labyrinth, like TRUMAN for example. What an appropriate name for someone who ends up on the Roof of the World, which I agree is one of the most magnificent chapters in Durrell's entire opus, as one of the list members wrote recently.
>  
> If anyone on the list knows of an article concerning the Cefalu or Dark Labyrinth  names, I would be greatly interested. I am currently translating Dark Labyrinth into Slovenian – to be published at the 100th anniversary of his birth (February 2012) – and would love to include this symbolism into the preface of the book.
>  
> I would also be grateful for any information on reviews or articles on this particular book, which I greatly enjoy working on although L.D. dismissed it as a potboiler. I think there was an article in Deus Loci about Otto Rank's influence on D.L. If anyone happens to be familiar with it, please let me know if it's worth reading.
>  
> BTW, I loved the photos from Bellapais. What a great location for a future Durrell conference! I followed the Durrell trail throughout the Meditterranean but haven't been to Cyprus yet. The Villa Cleobolus and the »Tree of idleness« in the old moslem graveyard in Rhodes are sadly neglected to my great disappointment.
>  
> Looking forward to further commentaries on Dark Labyrinth,
>  
> Meta Cerar,
> Slovenia
>  
> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of Bruce Redwine
> Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:43 PM
> To: Denise Tart & David Green; ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: Re: [ilds] What has happened to the ilds list
>  
> Someone undoubtedly already has published an article on names in Cefalu, indeed throughout Durrell's fiction.  My guess is that LD sometimes chose them as Shakespeare did his low-life characters:   Mistress Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, Pistol, etc.  People are their names.  Doesn't Fearmax die of fright?
>  
>  
> Bruce
> 
> Sent from my iPhone
> 
> On Jan 27, 2011, at 11:59 AM, "Denise Tart & David Green" <dtart at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> 
>> I especially recommend the early chapter in Tunc describing Caradoc's drunken speech in front of the Parthenon. Grove
>> 
>> It is probably fitting that I make a detailed literary analysis of Caradoc's speech - already seeing Durrell's juxtaposition of northern Celtic Caradoc and the  souther classical Parthenon.
>>  
>> btw, has anyone studied Durrell's names? I was very intrigued by them when reading Dark Labyrinth recently; Fearmax, Graecen - there something 18th century about it.
>>  
>> David
>>  
>>  

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