[ilds] What has happened to the ilds list

gkoger at mindspring.com gkoger at mindspring.com
Sat Jan 29 10:31:47 PST 2011


James,

Thank you! Much, much to think about here. My own impression (my last reading was some time back) is that, as Durrell suggests, the Firm has always been with us. It's as if it has an existence in the DNA as well as in the external world. And I've always felt that the central situation isn't (to change the tense) now or never but now AND never. Aren't the books all about contradictions? 

Rereading may change my perceptions entirely, so a group approach would be another reason to look forward to summer!

Grove


-----Original Message-----
>From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
>Sent: Jan 28, 2011 2:21 PM
>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] What has happened to the ilds list
>
>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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