[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 60, Issue 6_Merriane Timko

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Sun Mar 11 09:00:14 PDT 2012

Dear Sumantra,

Regarding your #3. Haag writes of the temporarily resident Englishwoman in
Alexandria, Elizabeth Gwynne - not a native citizen of Alexandria, etc......


Dear Merrianne,

I would rather not have mentioned this fragment from Michael Haag's book at 
all. But Michael Haag's book seems to imply that Durrell was prepared to 
transpose attributes to Alexandrians in attempt to arouse the curiosity of 
readers about his characters. Whereas Michael Haag depicts the lives of 
girls from Alexandrian society as deeply conventional, Durrell seems to 
concentrate on "...sexual provendor..." and imply a "..wine-press of love.." 
(whatever that might actually mean) which produced people who were 
psychically wounded. Contrast these two representations:

1. Michael Haag:
 "There was an innocence about Alexandria then, in those early days of the 
war, an innocence that some would say the city never really lost. 'It was 
unthought of for an unmarried girl, or even an unmarried boy', recalled 
Bernard de Zogheb, 'to leave the family house and have a flat of their 
own...Certainly most girls in Alexandria went to their weddings as virgins - 
girls of all communities. We were brought up to think that sex was a mortal 
sin.'..." (Alexandria: City of Memory, p.184)

2. Lawrence Durrell:
"Alexandria was the great winepress of love; those who emerged from it were 
the sick men, the solitaries, the prophets - I mean all who have been deeply 
wounded in their sex." (The Alexandria Quartet, Justine, Faber paperback, 
1974, p.18)

Is this an exaggerated attempt at making a subject interesting in a prurient 
sort of way? If so, does the literary value of the work suffer? In fact The 
Alexandria Quartet appears to depend far too much on prurience for retaining 
the interest of the reader, even though Durrell also succeeds in recreating 
romance in an age when romance seemed to have become irrelevant or obsolete.



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