[ilds] Dewford Mallows

Ilyas Khan ilyas.khan at crosby.com
Wed Mar 2 14:33:48 PST 2011

Bruce, thank you for that. Mountolive is by far and away my favourite book
from the quartet, and, with the benefit of a lifetime of reading LD,
possibly the book that I would choose if I had to take only one novel of LD
to a desert island. Your prompt has reminded me to wander into my library,
pick up Mountolive, and take it to bed with me.

On 02/03/2011 22:04, "Bruce Redwine" <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:

> The vignette about Mountolive, Sr. occurs on pp. 93-99 of the novel Mountolive
> (New York 1959).  The small piece is a gem-like intrusion in the story.  It's
> not essential to the main narrative, somewhat like the poem "Bitter Lemons" at
> the end of Bitter Lemons itself.  The son, David Mountolive, Jr., returns to
> England and visits his mother at "Dewford Mallows," two hours "down" from
> London.  The village is apparently fictional, for when I Googled it I turned
> up a citation to an article on the Quartet (John C. Kelly, "Lawrence Durrell's
> Style," Studies:  An Irish Quarterly Review, v. 52 [1963]).  The fictive name
> sounds pastoral, idyllic ‹ an aquatic and floral hybrid.
> Story time is winter, before Christmas.  The weather is overcast and cold.
> Mother and son have a good relationship; the father-son relationship is
> ambiguous.  The son left both India and his father at age eleven, never to see
> either again (mentioned twice), the same age as when LDG left India forever.
> A nice combination of fiction and autobiography.  The son calls the father's
> departure for monastic life a "defection."  He also, rather strangely, calls
> it their "closest bond."  (Bonds are usually described as positive, a
> defection isn't.)  The passage relies heavily on memory, which completely
> transports the scene elsewhere, to Kipling's India.  In his father's study,
> the son picks up "the old Tibetan prayer-wheel" and recalls "vanished India,"
> the "brazen sun," the "tawny river-mouth," the "burning ghats," the "dead
> bodies of men," and other vivid details.  That night Mountolive suffers "a
> crushing ear-ache," always recurring on his return home.  His mother nurses
> him with an old remedy of warm "salad oil," undoubtedly olive.  Then "the tide
> of agony receded to leave him, washed up so to speak, on the shores of sleep."
> That balm is not unlike the invocation at the end of "Bitter Lemons," where
> the speaker entreats, "Let the old sea-nurses keep / Their memorials of
> sleep."
> The Dewford Mallows passage is Lawrence Durrell at the peak of his narrative
> powers.  The writing is quiet, in a way that Joyce's Dubliners is quiet.  It's
> not unduly showy or sententious.  It also suppresses deep emotions, somewhat
> like Wordsworth's "Michael," another pastoral story.  Just what is the psychic
> cause of Mountolive's ear-aches?  We can guess at the obvious, but it's not
> confirmed.  Durrell prefers mystery.  The narrative elements are similar to
> those in "Bitter Lemons," with its repetitions and its tension of opposites.
> Antinomies Durrell might have called them ("the antinomian nature of irony").
> Here we have contrasting pairs:  pastoral name/wintry place, frozen
> exteriors/snug interiors, England/India, snow/heat, mother/father, life/death,
> devotion/defection, involvement/withdrawal, fame/anonymity, and so on.
> I imagine Durrell wrote the Dewford Mallows episode quickly, without much
> forethought, and that may have something to do with its success.  He felt the
> story in his bones.  I also like the novel Mountolive for much the same
> reason.
> Bruce
> On Mar 1, 2011, at 12:26 PM, William Godshalk wrote:
>> It is not readily apparent that Mountolive's missing father is modeled, at
>> least in part, on Francis J. Mott. But one might argue that Durrell's meeting
>> with Mott was much like the reunion with a missing father. And Mott was the
>> inspiration for some of Durrell's most interesting passages. Otto Rank is
>> also part of this soup mix.
>> Bill 

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