[ilds] Fw: ILDS Digest, Vol 66, Issue 3_Rereading The Alexandria Quartet

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Tue Oct 23 03:13:17 PDT 2012

> Message: 2
> Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2012 10:06:21 -0400
> From: Charles Sligh <charles-sligh at utc.edu>
> (Jan Morris)
  Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
Dear Charles,

Thank you  for sending the link. I seem to have overlooked this specific 
post when you first sent it.

I participated in The Guardian Reading and now remember reading the piece by 
Jan Morris. Personally, I thought Jan Morris had recognized the strongly 
evocative qualities of Durrell's writing. She also noted the particularly 
central position of the city in the novels of the AQ. She appeared to 
conclude with the view that the flaws now perceived in Durrell's writing, 
would not diminish the captivating effect of novels. I think the relative 
neglect of Lawrence Durrell and particularly The Alexandria Quartet apparent 
among today's readers and critics is related to changing tastes and the 
effects of these changing tastes are probably reflected in what Jan Morris 
has written.

There is also a problem of generation, perhaps. My tastes still resonate to 
Durrell's writing and I still respond to the quality and style of prose when 
I read a novel. The result is that these days I often give up on novels if 
the prose doesn't in some way hold my attention. Form over content? Perhaps, 
in my case at least. But in the world of fiction today, I just have an idea 
that content is perhaps more important than form. A sweeping and reckless 
comment perhaps!

But even way back in 1967 as a university student in England, I remember 
hearing both supportive and dismissive views about The Alexandria Quartet 
expressed at the same time in my presence, while in the informal company of 
very eminent students of English literature who happened to be holding 
opposing views!

Best wishes


> Message: 2
> Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2012 10:06:21 -0400
> From: Charles Sligh <charles-sligh at utc.edu>
> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> Subject: [ilds] Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
> (Jan Morris)
> Dear Sumantra:
> A pleasure to see your note.  Find the Jan Morris piece here:
>        Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/24/alexandria-quartet-lawrence-durrell-rereading>
> I took a rather strong position on this curious introduction at the
> British Library this summer.  I do think that the piece is a bit more
> revealing about Jan Morris' special capabilities and limits than about
> Lawrence Durrell's.   (Simon Ings was more direct.  He called the intro
> "a pompous, contemptuous flob
> <http://simoningsmirror.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/keep-friday-free-were-plotting-the-return-of-lawrence-durrell/>.")
> Morris is a capable reporter, having done fine work in the Venice book
> and the Pax Britannica trilogy.  But I wonder if there is a mismatch of
> her /m?tier/ and particular aesthetic sensibilities?  Or even an
> out-matching, or an over-reaching?   It really begs the question.
> After all, no reader ever walked about with a Jan Morris sentence
> haunting his memory.  (Test case:  There is no such thing as a "Jan
> Morris sentence."  By contrast, cf. "The sea is high again today, with a
> thrilling flush of wind." or "You enter Greece as one might enter a dark
> crystal; the form of things becomes irregular, refracted.")  And no Jan
> Morris book ever changed a reader's life, giving her an urgent reason to
> go live among new peoples, to see their lands, to drink their wine and
> to know their ways.
> I also wish Jan Morris had taken actual time and trouble to "re-read"
> /The Alexandria Quartet/.  Her obfuscations and faint praise make it all
> too clear that she had little time for the book, and less sympathy.
> Charles

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