[ilds] private kingdoms

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue May 17 12:37:48 PDT 2011


Charles,

First, I take the final chapter "At Cefalû" as a traditional literary "rounding" or "loop[ing]," as you put it, and this novel works, as LGD puts it in the letter you previously quoted, as a "cheap novel formula."  Cheap or not, The Black Book ends in this way (beginning and ending on Corfu), so too White Eagles over Serbia (beginning and ending in Methuen's club in London).  Such endings are, I think, a very natural tendency of the novelist's art, despite the Modernist trend or advocacy towards/of "open" endings, as in Sons and Lovers and Ulysses.

Second, Durrell was too smart to know he couldn't possibly end things at his Cretan Shangri-La, even James Hilton knew that in Lost Horizon (the best parts of which are trying to get to and then to return to the lost kingdom).  Moreover, the substantiality of "the Roof" is questioned by the smile of Mrs. Truman.  Such places are indeed best left to the "imagination."  That smile is Durrell's little joke, another "smile in the mind's eye."

Elsie Truman's pregnancy?  Campion lives on and is reincarnated like another Dalai Lama!  What could be more fitting for this Cretan/Tibetan landscape?

Meta Cerar had a question about Sir Juan Axelos — what's the source of this character?  The name is Greek, and there was a modern Greek philosopher by that name.  I wouldn't be surprised to find a Greek archaeologist called Axelos, the "Juan" notwithstanding.

As to the other character and their "afterlives."  I don't think Durrell is particularly good at satisfactory endings, certainly not in the sense of the Victorian novel or Jane Austen's.  Clea falls off at the end, doesn't it?  Justine seems more believable when she hurries off to Palestine and gets fat than when she shows up on Rue Fuad with Memlik in tow.


Bruce





On May 17, 2011, at 10:24 AM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> On 5/17/11 12:26 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> There is something scary about "The Roof of the World," although I think Durrell handles the idyll very well[. . . .]  It's worthwhile to note that The Dark Labyrinth does not end at "The Roof of the World," rather in the real world with all its problems, unresolved and mystifying, of course.
> Excellent post, Bruce.
> 
> What you say about the "ending" is true from a certain standpoint.  The book does in fact continue with another chapter after "The Roof of the World."  
> 
> And then, to be precise, after "At Cefalu," it loops right back on itself, like the Worm Ouroboros -- starting again in "The Argument" -- right?  (Help me with this.  I think this is what happens, but I can't be certain.)
> 
> However, I would also observe that, if we are to understand that the helicopter never comes and the Trumans never leave the Roof, then, for that couple, the story and the "meaning" come to an Apocalypse with the reader's last access to their relative experience.  
>> "I feel," said Truman, struggling with the inadequacies of his vocabulary.  I feel O.C. Universe," and his wife lying down with her hands behind her head, smiled up her content and happiness as she chewed a grass-stalk.  She had realized that the roof of the world did not really exist, except in their own imaginations!
> That "smile" seems an important counterbalance against the earlier feeling of entrapment, which David has rightly noted is claustrophobic and frightening.  But perhaps the Trumans have moved past that lesser, initial perception?  Perhaps it was all a matter of practical footwear -- something oft-emphasized in this book.
> 
> I should also mention the possibility of Elsie Truman's pregnancy, but I can't say what it portends.
> 
> Likewise, the points of "meaning" for Fearmax, Miss Dombey, and Campion come with their individually Apocalyptic moments.  There are numerous forks in this story, some with dead ends, some with cul-de-sacs, some open, leaps of faith.
> 
> The affairs of Graecen, Axelos, Baird, the Abbot, Virginia Dale, &c. seem to go on.  We do not have their after-stories.  Instead, we have the worm eating its own tail.
> 
> Right before that, we do have the following libation:
>> But Axelos silently contented himself by pouring out the dark sweet wine into the glasses and sighing.
> Charles
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
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