[ilds] Durrell's Heritage

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 6 13:09:57 PST 2011

Grove and James,

Two good responses, thorough and informative.  I don't pay much attention to legacy as quotability, for Durrell's gnomic style, his great delight in aphorisms, seems designed, in part, to assure a measure of literary immortality.  I get a little tired of seeing, "Music was invented to confirm human loneliness" (Clea, Penguin 65), quoted as an example of LD's profundity — probably because I don't understand what it means, when it stands alone.  (But maybe, like music, Durrell intended it simply to sound good.)  Durrell didn't invent "Postmodernism," nor need he have to be great.  But I don't know how enduring are his postmodernist ideas about multiple selves and unsubstantial reality.  What will endure, I think, are his evocative powers, which are really inimitable and not easily matched or passed down.  Readers look for this elsewhere, as Sumantra does.  Me too.  It's the context that counts, for me anyway.  And when I put the music aphorism back into its original context, Darley talking about Clea and Alexandria, then the somewhat pretentious saying does work, and I marvel at its appropriateness.  So, I don't think Durrell will have many descendants, and George Steiner was probably right to compare it to Wuthering Heights, that other strange and difficult to classify novel.


On Feb 6, 2011, at 10:50 AM, gkoger at mindspring.com wrote:

> I too have found the qualities Sumantra mentions in Berger's G and Cortazar's Hopscotch. Is the trilogy Drifting Cities (1960-65) by Tsirkas a possibility? I admit that I haven't been able to get very far into it, but perhaps someone else has. Durrell's influence on Fowles's The Magus is maybe more likely. How about Moorcock's Mother London?
> Durrell seems to stand at the end of a tradition, so I don't see any descendants, but if we are simply looking for works that share something of the "spell" or the quality of prose and the creation of atmosphere that Sumantra mentions, I'd suggest Wilder's The Cabala (1926), Prokosch's The Asiatics (1935) and The Seven Who Fled (1937), and Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939). This takes the discussion a bit further afield, but I can't help thinking that all these writers share a certain outlook and that maybe it tells us something about Durrell himself.
> Grove
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
>> Sent: Feb 6, 2011 10:10 AM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Durrell's Heritage
>> On 05/02/11 11:07 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>> Good point.  One measure of a writer's importance is
>>> his legacy and descendants.  Does Lawrence Durrell
>>> have either or both?
>> Provocative as always, Bruce...  Yet, I think this is quite well 
>> established.
>> Kathy Acker quotes from Durrell in her novels, Anthony Burgess doesn't 
>> acknowledge it but his recognition of Durrell has been discussed on this 
>> listserv, Peter Porter called Durrell a major overlooked poet, Julio 
>> Cortazar drew from the Quartet to write Hopscotch, and even here in 
>> Canada M.G. Vassanji (repeated winner of the Governor General's Award 
>> for Literature) has made his debt to Durrell clear.  Similar things have 
>> been said of Michael Ondaatje, Andre Brink, and Thomas Pynchon.
>> It's true that no "school" or movement emerged from Durrell's works, but 
>> then again, he explicitly didn't want one...
>> If, however, we're looking at shifts in writing paradigms, which I think 
>> is akin to Sumantra's comments to which you were responding, then 
>> Durrell doesn't do so badly after all.  He was a significant 
>> counter-voice to the Angry Young Men, and despite playing with that term 
>> when /The Black Book/ was reprinted, his prose bears no comparison. 
>> /The Black Book/ cannot be described as bland prose when set next to 
>> /Lucky Jim/ (not that either book is worsened in that comparison).  In 
>> many respects, Durrell kept the British vein of experimental writing 
>> alive when the age of the kitchen sink novel was in its ascendancy with 
>> gritty realism.
>> David Roessel has also noted the importance of Durrell and Miller to 
>> shifting literary Philhellenism from its Romantic models.
>> But, those are just my two cents...  For what they're worth, I'm 
>> pitching in citations below.
>> Cheers,
>> James
>> --------------
>> Sligh, Charles L. "Reading the Divergent Weave: A Note and Some 
>> Speculations on Durrell and Cortazar." /Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell 
>> Journal/ NS 6 (1998): 118-132.
>> Gifford, James. "Vassanji's Toronto and Durrell's Alexandria: The View 
>> from Across or the View from Beside?" /The Journal of Commonwealth and 
>> Postcolonial Studies/ 15.2 (2008): 28-43.
>> Swan, Susan. "Corfu: Visiting Lawrence Durrell's White House (from My 
>> Greek Journals)." /Writing Away: The PEN Canada Travel Anthology/. Ed. 
>> Constance Rooke. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994. 295-306.
>> Maynard, John. "On Desert Ground: Ondaatje's The English Patient, 
>> Durrell, and the Shifting Sands of Critical Typologies." /Deus Loci: The 
>> Lawrence Durrell Journal/ NS 5 (1997): 66-74.
>> Pynchon's links to Durrell have been noted by (in chronological order) 
>> Kingsley Widmer, Roger Henkle, Michael Boccia, Carol Peirce, and Leonard 
>> Orr.
>> Peter Midgley discussed Brink's use of Durrell (in the Afrikaans and 
>> English versions of /The Ambassador/) at the 2007 ACLALS conference in 
>> Vancouver.

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