[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

laura pais laurapais7 at gmail.com
Thu May 5 02:04:18 PDT 2011


2011/5/4 Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>:
> Meta,
> Thanks for the interest.  The essay, however, is in the research stage and
> far from being completed.  I consider The Dark Labyrinth ((1947) important,
> but Durrell himself didn't, T. S. Eliot didn't, nor do many participants on
> the ILDS list-serve.  The last is not a controversial statement — simply
> look at the lack of enthusiasm for any kind of discussion about the novel.
>  I doubt that many have read it, or, if they have, they categorize it as
> genre fiction.  Critical studies of DL are also meager.  Why?  My previous
> comments about Durrell's need to produce "big works" may have relevance.
>  Also pertinent, I think, is how one chooses to view LGD as a writer.  If
> you want to consider him a writer of serious postmodern fiction, then DL is
> not your meat.  It has a traditional form and doesn't have Durrell's
> distinctive poetic complexity.  On the other hand, if you're interested in
> Durrell's spiritual development, then the novel has much to offer.  I've
> already suggested that Durrell may have picked up the title from
> Miller's Time of the Assassins, a very spiritual book about that highly
> mysterious figure, Arthur Rimbaud.  DL also lends itself to psychoanalytic
> interpretations.  Guilt is an underlying theme in the novel, as Baird's
> psychoanalysis and his visit to the old abbot show.  At this point in his
> life, LGD was working through his divorce from Nancy Myers (finalized in
> 1947) and probably had some things to feel guilty about.  I am intrigued by
> the German soldier Böcklin, whom Baird kills and who is the source of his
> guilt.  Another German Bocklin (without the umlaut) appears in Prospero's
> Cell.  Moreover, Böcklin is also the name of a Swiss artist, Arnold Böcklin.
>  Nancy Myers was an artist.  I wonder if the Böcklin in DL is a screen for
> Nancy.
> Bruce
> On May 4, 2011, at 4:45 AM, Meta Cerar wrote:
> Bruce,
> I would be most grateful if you could send me this essay on Durrell you're
> working on as I'm preparing an article about Durrell to accompany the
> publication of Dark Labyrinth.
> Recently I went through both biographies (Bowker and McNiven) again and
> through the collection of D's most important interviews, and nowhere, really
> nowhere have I found anything on the DL except very brief and occassional
> remarks. If it may be right that Durrell was so dismissive because it
> reflects his own life and philosophy and there was »too much of LD in DL«, I
> am still curious if this attitude on the part of his biographers was due to
> Durrell's wish or whether they too thought the novel to be so irrelevant in
> relation to other works of D's as to deserve no more than a casual mention.
> I'd really like to clarify this, so I would appreciate your opinion as well
> as the opinions of other list members. I think Dark Labyrinth is one of
> Durrell's best pieces, introducing many of the leitmotifs that appear in the
> AQ, so it surely deserves more recognition. Apart from the Roof of the World
> chapter I especially like the chapter about Baird's visit to the monastery
> and the character of the old abbot.
> I can only hope that Slovenian readers will be more appreciative of the book
> than Durrell's biographers.
> Best regards,
> Meta
> ________________________________
> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On
> Behalf Of Bruce Redwine
> Sent: Friday, April 22, 2011 8:35 PM
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Cc: Bruce Redwine
> Subject: [ilds] The Dark Labyrinth
> Meta,
> I'm currently working on an essay dealing with Durrell's use of pastoral,
> which will include aspects of his peculiar "transcendental dimension."
>  David Green below encapsulates well, as you note, some of those
> characteristics.  I too find The Dark Labyrinth an extraordinary work of
> fiction.  Why did Durrell dismiss it?  I'd guess because it didn't fit in
> which his grandiose plans for making his mark on world literature (hence the
> need to produce "big works," "man-size piece[s]," i.e., novels in sets, epic
> fashion).  Yes, that's hard.  But, if I may expand on Frank Kermode's
> observations (Critical Inquiry 7 (1980), no. 1, 83-101), authors are not
> always in full control of their material and don't always know when they're
> succeeding or not.  As far as the "transcendental" goes, the escape into
> some mythological unknown was there at an early age.  In a letter to Henry
> Miller (27 January 1937), Durrell writes, "Rimbaud's solution is always in
> the air." The statement is problematic, but I take it to mean that young
> Durrell is romanticizing Arthur Rimbaud's escape into the wilds of
> Abyssinia, i.e., seeking out some primitive haven not unlike the Roof of the
> World in DL.  Of course, what Durrell was probably unaware of is that
> Rimbaud was bored stiff with life in remote East Africa.  Read his letters
> to chères mère et sœur.  No matter.  The idea of pastoral is more important
> than facts.
> Bruce
> On Apr 22, 2011, at 2:39 AM, Meta Cerar wrote:
> This is beautifully put, thank you for this post. I am so glad that other
> Durrell fans also find the transcendental dimension in the Dark Labyrinth
> (which I recently translated into Slovenian). I have always wondered why
> Durrell himself was so dismissive of this novel? Referred to it as a
> potboiler, written to pay for the divorce from Nancy. And why was it hardly
> ever mentioned by his biographers, and not even once in the interviews which
> were compiled into a book (I think the author was Ingersoll or something
> similar)?
> Best regards
> Meta Cerar
> Ljubljana, Slovenia
> ________________________________
> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On
> Behalf Of Denise Tart & David Green
> Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:00 AM
> To: Durrel
> Subject: [ilds] LGD and the Three Pillars of Happiness
> LGD was a highly spiritual person and sought enlightenment through a variety
> of faiths and beliefs: Gnosticism, the cabbala, Buddhism and of the
> transcendental quest for spirit of place . it pervades all his work and no
> finer example than that found in Dark Labyrinth and the metaphoric discovery
> of the Tibetan upland!  My feeling is that LGD discovered many elements of
> spiritual upland when, after the bitter lemons of Cyprus, he went to the
> Midi with Claude and lived a plain rustic life at the Mazet, in country side
> he liked, with the woman he loved and doing work he enjoyed - writing and
> pottering about his farm. The other day Denise said that she heard that the
> three pillars of happiness are: someone to love, something to do and
> something to look forward to. I only add that the second pillar is stronger
> when you like what you do. LGD had all those when with Claude and it was his
> best time as a man, lover and writer. Later, he did not have love, found
> writing more difficult and had only the bottle to look forward to ...and
> female American uni students.
> David
> 16 William Street
> Marrickville NSW 2204
> + 61 2 9564 6165
> 0412 707 625
> www.denisetart.com.au
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