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

Ken Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Sun Mar 11 12:27:21 PDT 2012


Sumantra and Merrianne – I think it’s worth remembering that Durrell was in
Alexandria during the war, but used those experiences to create an epic
story with dozens of memorable characters, dramatic events in an exotic
locale…which he *pushed back in time* into the 1930s (Don Kaczvinsky dates
Darley’s arrival in the city to 1933: "When Was Darley in Alexandria?  A
Chronology for the Alexandria Quartet," Journal of Modern Literature 17.4
(1991), 591-94,) which was to your point perhaps a more innocent time – but
to tell you the truth, I have a hard time believing that the 1930s were
truly innocent anywhere on the planet earth, or that what we might call the
dark side of Durrell’s Alexandria was cut out of whole cloth.



Thanks - Ken

On Sun, Mar 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM, Sumantra Nag <sumantranag at gmail.com> wrote:

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