[ilds] The Egyptian Revolution

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 31 12:16:18 PST 2011


Yes.  I think you're right about Miller's and Durrell's pessimism about the fate of revolutions and those who lead them.  This reminds me of Epicureanism, Epicurus's "Garden," one of the major schools of Hellenistic philosophy.  Ultimately, Epicureanism is a rejection of the world and a withdrawal into one own private "garden."  Does this have something to do with Durrell's Heraldic Universe, as he describes it below?  Was the escape to Corfu an escape into a private garden and retreat?  Avoiding the social politics of the day?  Later in Alexandria, during the war, Durrell criticizes Horace for this withdrawal in "Loeb's Horace," but he himself had his own gardens.  I'm reminded of Marvell and his garden poems.  Andrew Marvell lived during Oliver Cromwell's revolution.  He was involved in Puritan politics, but he was not a Puritan, and some of his best poetry is about gardens and what they represent.  I see similarities between Durrell and Marvell.


On Jan 31, 2011, at 8:44 AM, James Gifford wrote:

> On 31/01/11 7:40 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Recall how the Lenin and the Bolsheviks took
>> control.  In the Egyptian situation, the ones
>> who appear incorruptible and beyond reproach
>> may end up ruling.  Robespierre was known as
>> "the Incorruptible."
> In a sense, this is what I mean by turning to the "antiauthoritarian" in 
> Durrell's works, in particular during the 30s and 40s, and I think it's 
> where there's common ground with Henry Miller's explicit anarchism:
> "I am against revolutions because they always involve a return to the 
> status quo. I am against the status quo both before and after 
> revolutions. I don't want to wear a black shirt or a red shirt. I want 
> to wear the shirt that suits my taste." (Miller's "Open Letter to 
> Surrealists Everywhere" 160).
> Miller wrote that essay in response to Herbert Read's short lived 
> support for Communism while boosting Surrealism:
> "[Surrealism only succeeds] in the degree to which it leads to 
> revolutionary actions" (8) and "work[s] for the transformation of this 
> imperfect world." (13)
> Durrell responded to precisely the same issue in his first letter to 
> Miller describing the Heraldic Universe, which was in reaction to Miller 
> sending him a copy of Read's above speech:
> "the Heraldic Universe.... will never be chic because it is my personal 
> property and I don't want any movement made up of people who agree with 
> each other even on first principles" (Durrell & Miller Letters 20).
> The last few words are directly from Read's speech. Yet, for Durrell, 
> the matter is slightly different, his problem being Read's suggestion:
> "That the artist must be a socialist, for example. That he wants to 
> transform the world. (He wants to transform men.)" (Durrell
> and Miller Letters 18).
> The rebuttal of Read's "transformation of this imperfect world" is 
> fairly clear there.  Eventually, however, he got to "No Clue to Living" 
> in 1960:
> "One supposes that the Artist as a public Opinionator only grew up with 
> the social conscience -- with Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.... 
> [T]here come hundreds of letters asking him to take up public positions 
> on every conceivable matter.... But it is very doubtful whether he has 
> anything to say which could be more original than the other 
> pronouncements by public figures, for apart from his art he is just an 
> ordinary fellow like everyone else." (17)
> One can't help but wonder if we're all just ordinary fellows, and hence 
> the kind of power vested in a Lenin, Robespierre, and so forth is ill 
> advised...  They have no greater incorruptibility nor immunity to 
> temptation than any of us.
> Best,
> James
> On 31/01/11 7:40 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> I think the Egyptian people want their impoverished lot improved and
>> are tired of being rule by a corrupt oligarchy (the Memlik types).
>> Doesn't this remind you of the French Revolution?  Whether or not a
>> democracy can provide that in the short term is questionable.  I fear
>> that the Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are better
>> organized and better capable of seizing power.  They also have great
>> religious fervor and appeal to a strong religious impulse.  Recall
>> how the Lenin and the Bolsheviks took control.  In the Egyptian
>> situation, the ones who appear incorruptible and beyond reproach may
>> end up ruling.  Robespierre was known as "the Incorruptible."
>> BR

More information about the ILDS mailing list