[ilds] A Long Life That Peaks Quite Young (NYT)

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 12 13:40:09 PST 2011


Charles,

Yes, true, and highly provocative.  I'm particularly interested in the idea of "authorship as a posthumous act."  Not many authors, I think, would think of themselves as writing from the grave, so to speak.  Webster?  Keats?  Poe?  It's unusual for a young man to have such thoughts.  But the textual evidence you've assembled is compelling.  There's a strong death-wish in Durrell, and I would only add that he sought more than death, perhaps self-extinction, in the Hindu or Buddhist sense.  That repose he seeks on the islands and in some of the poetry, those "memorials of sleep," just what is all that?  He doesn't explain.  He sounds tired, exhausted, and humane.  A very complicated man.


Bruce



On Feb 12, 2011, at 12:50 PM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> On 2/12/11 3:02 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> I don't think of "obscurity" as a bad thing.  Authors probably do, however.  Some part of LD seemed to long for it.  Mountolive Sr. was happy in his Indian or Ceylonese monastery translating Pali texts, and Durrell's gravesite is somewhat obscure, no?
> 
> The Alexandria Quartet
> "Byron"
> "The Critics"
> A Smile in the Mind's Eye
> The Avignon Quintet 
> Each of those works might be taken as a Durrellian meditation on the vagaries of Fame, Obscurity, and the Posthumous Career of the Author.  
> 
> As I read the works listed above, I sometimes fancy that Durrell found his way forward by imagining he was already finished with his life and his life's work.  Thus the coy masks -- Pursewarden, Byron, Shakespeare, Blanford, Sutcliff, &c.
> 
> Both early and late in his career, Durrell seems to have thought of authorship as a posthumous act.  For example, in The Black Book, Durrell had already adopted the mask of the archimimus -- the dissolute and flamboyant clown who followed along behind the funeral procession, making a merry parody of the deceased's dress, manners, and speech.  Thus the pattern of Durrell's dual narrators:  Lawrence Lucifer following Death Gregory, Darley following Arnauti & Pursewarden, &c. &c.   Also cf. the sequence of "dead places" considered in retrospect -- England, from Corfu; Corfu, from Alexandria; Alexandria, from an island; &c. &c.
> 
> It is curious that, in certain cases, the deceased characters continue to run witty circles around the survivors, with dead men parodying living.  That mockery may or may not be an allegory for the mindful reader of Lawrence Durrell.
> 
> The rest is silence.
> 
> C&c.
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************

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