[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

Panaiotis Gerontopulos pan.gero at hotmail.com
Thu May 5 09:37:42 PDT 2011


Pope Joan too?


From: Richard Pine 
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2011 7:17 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca 
Subject: Re: [ilds] The Dark Labyrinth


I think we should educate ourselves out of the literary snobbism in which most of us have been trained - I mean the Leavisite idea of a 'canon' or 'tradition' into which a writer either does or does not 'fit'. (Leavis is said to have remarked of LD 'not one of us'. Both Leavises suffered, in my opinion, from an appalling - in the strict Adlerian sense - inferiority complex. Reading QD Leavis's 'Fiction and the Reading Public' one could be forgiven for wondering how she could have possibly expressed such banal, untenable opinions about major authors of whom she did not approve.)
We have to remember that LD very early on tried to become 2 writers - LD and 'Charles Norden' and that H Miller put the lid on that idea. But he did go forward writing one 'real' (as he called it) book followed by one lighter book. He himself described 'Sicilian Carousel' to me as 'a makeweight' while waiting for the successor to Monsieur. 
Eliot didn't dismiss DL: he said there was too much Durrell for a Norden, and not enough Durrell for a Durrell. If you elide Norden, the problem goes away.
Look at the chronology: heavy/light/heavy/light all the way through. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT WE HAVE TO REGARD THE 'LIGHT' AS INFERIOR. It is the Leavises et al who have conditioned us to think that way. What is it? It's what LD himself described as 'British critics suffering from penis envy'. i.e. we spend so much energy lauding the 'real' books that we think it inferior of us as lit crits to also acknowledge the in-between stuff, and yet we secretly want to admire it. Somehow, we feel guilty at admitting that 'DL' or 'White Eagles' excites us, because we have been trained to act as snobs. LD himself said that one would seldom meet a reader who admits to enjoying Proust AND Wodehouse. But HE DID and so do I and I HAVE NO PATIENCE with the school of thought which pretends that we have to make a special case for DL or White Eagles or Antrobus. We DON'T. Just ENJOY! Or is that impossible for a po-faced critic? I'm afraid it is, in most cases. And then there are those toilet-trained in 'theory' who can't make up their minds about anything they've read until they have decided what Derrida might have thought. They don't deserve to be critics at all, because they haven't got a mind of their own, not even a Leavisite one. Urrrgh
So could we please stop agonising about whether DL is a great book or even an important book, and just read the damn thing for what it is worth - free of jargon, free of extra-textual considerations, free of critical prejudice?
RP



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From: Meta Cerar <meta.cerar at guest.arnes.si>
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Sent: Wed, May 4, 2011 2:45:00 PM
Subject: Re: [ilds] The Dark Labyrinth


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




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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




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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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