[ilds] What has happened to the ilds list

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Fri Jan 28 13:21:01 PST 2011


On 27/01/11 6:57 AM, gkoger at mindspring.com wrote:
> And for those who haven't read Tunc and Nunquam, get busy! They're the
> most consistently underrated of Durrell's novels and deserve more
> attention. I'm not qualified to undertake a chapter-by-chapter analysis
> of them, but perhaps someone else could this summer.

Do I sense another reading group coming on?  I'd enjoy that, and Tunc 
and Nunquam have been favourites of mine.  Great suggestion, Grove! 
Let's plan for it this summer.

I'm of the (perhaps heretical) opinion that these are more political 
works than they let on, and that they show much about Durrell's 1930s 
and 40s activities that can otherwise be overlooked.

Caradoc's speech is grand, but I'm always struck by the inexplicable 
ending to /Nunquam/...  I can't help but think of Durrell's publications 
in the anarchist press (NOW, New Road, Experimental Review, the New 
Apocalypse books, and so forth) and the ease with which an 
antiauthoritarian interpretation of his poetics can be made.  Add to 
that mix the language of /Nunquam/'s last two pages 282-283 (law, 
authority, command, contractual obligation, and the fall of the state):

"which satisfied the law."

"the prophecy of Zeno has been occupying me, preoccupying me very much. 
  Indeed I now feel it less as a prophecy than as a sort of command, 
from myself to myself"

"People will be afraid to take advantage of the fact that they have no 
contractual obligations."

"we have been dancing, dancing in complete happiness and accord.... even 
though Rome burns."

I may be just spotting things I'm looking for in other 1930s writers at 
the moment (Duncan, Rexroth, Miller, Leite, Woodcock, and others who are 
explicit about their anarchism and its influence on their style), but I 
can't help but see /The Revolt of Aphrodite/ through a perspective that 
asks about its implicit critique of corporatism and coercion in those 
terms.  Certainly Durrell's vision isn't like Palahniuk's /Fight Club/, 
but there's something kindred.  The state (Rome) falls, contracts end, 
law is obscured, yet the folks are in peace and accord, relying instead 
on their word and sociability.

The "Tunc aut Nunquam" moment is also cast in unusual terms for Durrell:

"Either everything will disintegrate, the Firm will begin to dissolve; 
or else nothing, Mr. Felix, absolutely nothing."

The Zeno prophecy first appears on pages 231-2, and this Zeno is a Greek 
clerk who has visions (his vision is of the novel's ending and the 
destruction of coercion and obligation).  However, I can't help but take 
the reference to Zeno (and can a Classicist on here correct me?! 
Bruce?) as potentially a gesture to Kropotkin's entry in the 
Encyclopaedia Britannics's 11th edition (same entry for Durrell's 14th 
edition?  I know the 14th was based on the 11th edition):

"The best exponent of anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece was Zeno 
[...] who distinctly opposed his conception of a free community without 
government to the state-utopia of Plato. He repudiated the omnipotence 
of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the 
sovereignty of the moral law of the individual -- remarking already 
that, while the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads man to 
egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with 
another instinct -- that of sociability. When men are reasonable enough 
to follow their natural instincts, they will unite across the frontiers 
and constitute the cosmos. They will have no need of law-courts or 
police, will have no temples and no public worship, and use no money -- 
free gifts taking the place of the exchanges."

I think Plutarch describes Zeno failing to kill the tyrant Demylus so 
that "with his own teeth bit off his tongue, he spit it in the tyrant’s 
face."

I'm retracing some poetic networks that ran contrary to the Auden 
Generation, and most have an anarchist politics, so I may just have this 
in my head at the moment.  Still, it seems like some anti-state or 
antiauthoritarian sentiments (which isn't so far from Durrell's open 
poetics) are present here.

At any rate, those are the things that have been occupying my mind 
lately with /The Revolt of Aphrodite/...  What say y'all?

Best,
James


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