[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

Richard Pine rpinecorfu at yahoo.com
Fri May 6 00:37:23 PDT 2011

Not at all. If you feel you must sit around a campfire (I don't!) then leave 
your baggage in the parking lot. RP

From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Cc: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
Sent: Thu, May 5, 2011 8:23:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

"Free of jargon, free of extra-textual considerations, free of critical 
prejudice" — now what does all that sound and fury mean?  I guess it means that 
all discussion should end, and we should all sit around the campfire and sing 
the praises of LGD and say how much we enjoy everything he writes.  Not much of 
a critical discussion, in my opinion. 


On May 5, 2011, at 9:17 AM, Richard Pine wrote:

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 
>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?
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
>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,

>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
>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 
>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.
>16 William Street
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