[ilds] The Dark Labyrinth

Marc Piel marc at marcpiel.fr
Fri May 6 08:06:33 PDT 2011

Thank you Charles,
I agree entirely with you about the AQ. It is so 
much part of me that I went to Alexandria and 
closely follow what happens there and in Egypt.

Anyway started rereading Dark Labyrinth this 
morning and found LD's beautiful language 
immediately in the first chapters.

Best Regards,

Le 06/05/11 16:28, Charles Sligh a écrit :
> Thanks so much for taking the time to share your 
> thoughts on Durrell and his /Dark Labyrinth/, Meta.
> I will respond below here as I can.
>>      I have always wondered why I like this
>>     particular book so much, as I always felt a
>>     bit guilty that I found the highbrows like
>>     Avignon Quintet (and some other things like
>>     Tunc) very hard to struggle through. (
>>     Alex. Quartet which I keep rereading, is of
>>     course still a source of immense pleasure
>>     and inspiration!).
> I would suspect that different readers find 
> different sorts of pleasures in different 
> books.  That sounds more obvious than it 
> actually is.  Many people make themselves very 
> busy for a lifetime devising "reasons" that 
> supposedly make plain why some readers should 
> elevate certain books at the cost of other books.
> These critics are easily tilted from the saddle 
> by the Socratic method.  Their pronouncements 
> tend to spring from other agendas rather than 
> from a deep enjoyment of the books in front of 
> them.  Loyalties will out, one way or another.  
> If the critic opens by frankly confessing the 
> arbitrariness of the agenda and pronouncements, 
> then fine.  That is playing the Police with 
> literature, checking and stamping an author's 
> papers to make certain that he or she passes.  
> But I cannot imagine how one keeps grinding away 
> like that, putting authors and books up on the 
> rack and forcing "confessions."
> I identify literature with pleasure. For the 
> writer, literature is the creation of pleasure.  
> For the reader, literature is the identification 
> and appreciation of the pleasure's sources.  
> That is my confession.  I know my subjectivity, 
> and I try to discriminate and refine it as best 
> as I can.
> /The Alexandria Quartet/ will always be my book 
> because it is my autobiography -- not because it 
> is "higher" &c.  I do think the /Quartet/ has 
> given me the richest memories over a lifetime, 
> some memories from reading the /Quartet/, others 
> by means of associations of places and 
> friendships with other readers of those four 
> novels.
> And, yes, as with the characters inside the 
> book, my relation with the /Quartet/ is an act 
> of memorious-ness:  an ongoing examination of my 
> own experience and memory as it has connected 
> with the /Quartet/.
> I simply do not have those deep and rich 
> associations with /The Dark Labyrinth/ or /The 
> Revolt of Aphrodite/ &c.  But other readers may 
> have them, and I might someday -- perhaps thanks 
> to you?
> Those are my cards, out on the table.
>>         So I often wondered abot this
>>         classification of Durrell's work.
>>          »Highbrows« versus »makeweights«?
>>         Although DL is, I agree, not exactly a
>>         highbrow«, I would certainly not put it
>>         into the same league as White Eagles,
>>         Antrobus, Stiff upper lip, etc. I'd
>>         rather say it occupies a very special
>>         place somewhere in between, as T.S.
>>         Eliot observed /neither a Norden nor a
>>         Durrell, but certainly more Durrell/.
>>         But then again, maybe I'm partial here
>>         – I find Durrell a fascinating man and
>>         this book throws so much light on his
>>         complex personality. And the themes
>>         that prevail in the book are very close
>>         to me – the islomania, especially, and
>>         the retreat into the pastoral, quest of
>>         spiritual fulfillment …
> Your confession of partiality is the truest and 
> most honorable part, Meta.  Remember:  
> "highbrow," "modern", "postmodern," &c. are 
> artificial categories, old habits which, like so 
> many others, show up our failures.
> I would put it in this manner.  Categories have 
> a very limited use in showing us something new 
> about Lawrence Durrell and his writing.  But 
> Lawrence Durrell and his writing can be 
> /extremely/ useful in turning the mirror back, 
> showing us the very real limits and 
> imperfections of categories.
> I take Pursewarden's ironic mustache seriously, 
> you see. . . .
>>     I wonder if the women in the DL, and
>>     especially Boecklin, are really aspects of
>>     Nancy? Unfortunately I know very little
>>     about her from what I've read in the
>>     biographies, so I cannot say, but maybe one
>>     of you can contribute a more elaborate
>>     opinion here?
> Biography is /always/ interesting.  If you are 
> interested in learning more about Nancy's life 
> and work, look ahead to 2012.  We have a new 
> biography focusing entirely on Nancy coming out 
> then.
> Enjoy your reading, Meta.  I am glad to have you 
> here.
> Charles
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
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