[ilds] the origins of Cunegonde

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 31 16:36:46 PST 2011

Marc, yes, it makes perfect sense to me.  And what do you think of Nelson atop his pillar with a "phallic air?"  The image is silken, Latinate, as the whole poem is, but the humor is fundamentally juvenile.  The ballade form sounds like a play-ground chant.


On Jan 31, 2011, at 3:20 PM, Marc Piel wrote:

> Think about when LD wrote this. Does it make sense 
> that he would be "childish, boyish, prurient, 
> prankish, etc" at that time.
> I know I wouldn't be!
> B.R.
> Marc
> Le 31/01/11 22:47, Bruce Redwine a écrit :
>> James,
>> Humor is undoubtedly also one of those things that exist in the eye or
>> mind of the beholder. And for me, anyway, Cunégonde would be funny
>> without knowledge of Voltaire. Much like /tunc/ and the god/dog joke.
>> Knowledge of French and its puns, however, is necessary. I can see your
>> sense of humor is far more sophisticated than mine. My kind of "lame
>> humor" I owe in part to spending four years in the army, where
>> experience is often at its most crude. Some of Durrell's humor strikes
>> me as being in his vein — childish, boyish, prurient, prankish, etc. So,
>> "Zeus gets Hera on her back . . . " or "a bird in the bush is worth two
>> in the hand." Little boys do have dirty minds, and it doesn't take much
>> to amuse them. I don't think Durrell ever outgrew this. Nor have I.
>> Bruce
>> On Jan 31, 2011, at 1:17 PM, James Gifford wrote:
>>> Bruce notes suggests, rightly, that Charles and I might take up the
>>> plural interpretations of Durrell's word plays, but for the naughty
>>> Cunegonde's three potential origins, he notes:
>>>> I would say that the only definition that
>>>> really counts, as far as LGD is concerned,
>>>> is the last one [the purely prurient]. So,
>>>> I don't see much ambiguity here.
>>> Would Cunegonde be funny without the antithetical nature of her literary
>>> predecessor in Voltaire's /Candide/? If one possessed such a doll,
>>> naming it "Nancy" wouldn't seem terribly peculiar even though it's open
>>> to the sexual innuendo of a "nancy boy" (or at least no more peculiar
>>> than owning such a thing is already), but if "Reagan" were added as a
>>> surname, it would take on a much broader humour. I'd say the same for
>>> "Fanny" becoming "Fanny Burney" rather than "Fanny Hill." But just
>>> plain old "Fanny" is clearly just plain old prurient, and it's a rather
>>> lame joke if the literary predecessor isn't there -- Durrell did make
>>> lame jokes, but most have that added dimension of ambiguity or plurality.
>>> I think Bruce's peculiar interest {winks heavily at audience} in this
>>> rather silly joke in what was perhaps Durrell's most careless (and
>>> final) book would be much more peculiar were it not for Voltaire's
>>> penning of his own Cunegonde...
>>> Cheers,
>>> James
>>> On 31/01/11 10:44 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>>> Charles,
>>>> Glad to have your company once again, and thanks for the elaboration,
>>>> esp. the Nabokov quotation. I think this discussion of alternative
>>>> glosses leads to an important aspect of Durrell's method (if you can
>>>> call it that) of writing. Namely, ambiguity, deliberate or not. You note
>>>> the various readings/spellings of "draught," which is the English
>>>> spelling, the American is "draft." In this instance, I don't think any
>>>> ambiguity exists (unless you're obsessed by Kinbote's "texture").
>>>> Durrell is making a cute comparison between drafty English architecture
>>>> and the drafty English soul, if you will. But what about Cunégonde,
>>>> recently discussed? What's the meaning or source of that personal name?
>>>> We came up with three definitions/sources:
>>>> 1. Voltaire's /Candide,/
>>>> 2. Marc's etymology based on German /kühn/ and /Gund /(sic), and
>>>> 3. Richard's "cunt on which the sexual business of the world hinged."
>>>> Now, which of these meanings did Durrell intend? Or does he want, as
>>>> Charles and James probably think, all three to be held simultaneously in
>>>> the reader's mind? Does Durrell want "texture?" Quite possibly. But I
>>>> think only nos. 1 and 3 applied at the time of composition. Durrell's
>>>> source is most likely Voltaire, but what really appealed to him was the
>>>> sexual innuendo seen in the French, which is what Richard and Marc point
>>>> out and acknowledge. I would say that the only definition that really
>>>> counts, as far as LGD is concerned, is the last one. So, I don't see
>>>> much ambiguity here.
>>>> On the other hand, ambiguity, if that's the right word, has its place.
>>>> Something to do with what the reader makes of words and images. Charles
>>>> lists Durrell's various usages of /draught,/ and taken together these
>>>> contribute powerfully to the "world" of his fiction and poetry, an
>>>> ambience that readers find so bewitching. I don't know how to integrate
>>>> this into a theory of composition, but it is definitely something that
>>>> has to be reckoned with.
>>>> Bruce

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