[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 75, Issue 5_Message 2_James Gifford

Lynn-Marie & Brewster sunrisedriven at gmail.com
Thu Jul 11 05:37:33 PDT 2013


Trilling's essay is reprinted in Harry T. Moore (ed.) The World of LD
(Southern Illinois UP, 1962).
    BC


On Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 3:39 AM, Sumantra Nag <sumantranag at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello James,****
>
> ** **
>
> Thanks for your comments which you sent on despite the demanding presence
> of the two little ones. ****
>
> ** **
>
> Your phrase “…the determinism of the city's libidinal coercion…” deals
> with a fundamental aspect of the *Quartet*. Durrell’s oft repeated
> pronouncement about being caught in a gravitational field thrown down by
> the city, about the personae being the “flora and fauna” to the will of
> Alexandria.****
>
> ** **
>
> I read a research paper on Durrell where a reference is made to Lionel
> Trilling’s critique of the novels of *The Alexandria Quartet*. Lionel
> Trilling is quoted as referring to the absence of will among the characters
> of the *Quartet* and I read this as a sort of indictment of the novel in
> terms of what the characters actually do - or don’t do. Durrell himself
> seems to emphasize this condition not perhaps by design but as his
> perception of people living out their lives in a climate which saps the
> energy and will. “Exhausted” is a word he often uses to broadly describe
> the state of people in Alexandria and the city’s “airs” (?). ****
>
> ** **
>
> I have not been able to access Lionel Trilling’s paper which might be part
> of a compilation of criticism. I’m sure you will be able to identify it.**
> **
>
> ** **
>
> Best wishes****
>
> ** **
>
> Sumantra****
>
> ** **
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------****
>
> Message: 1****
>
> Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2013 13:34:11 +0530****
>
> From: "Sumantra Nag" <sumantranag at gmail.com>****
>
> To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>****
>
> Cc: Frank Kersnowski <fkersnow at trinity.edu>****
>
> Subject: [ilds] FW: ILDS Digest, Vol 75,           Issue 3_Frank
> Kersnowski_"The****
>
>             Alexandria Quartet: A Reconsideration."****
>
> Message-ID: <000901ce7d44$127022b0$37506810$@gmail.com>****
>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"****
>
> ** **
>
> Frank,****
>
> ** **
>
> I did want to mention an aspect of Durrell which seemed to have emerged
> during his interview reported in your paper. There, Durrell says that in
> the Quartet he had succeeded in bringing the red light district back to
> Alexandria.****
>
> ** **
>
> What is this achievement supposed to mean? In a 1977 interview Durrell
> reports a conversation with his ambassador on the existence of a brothel in
> Alexandria. Durrell then says that he transposed a brothel area from Cairo
> to Alexandria in the Quartet. He was trying to recall the brothels of
> Alexandria which had been closed by Montgomery - sent to the desert - by
> the time Durrell and his contemporaries arrived. ****
>
> ** **
>
> Durrell also wrote a poem Elegy on the Closing of the French Brothels. ***
> *
>
> ** **
>
> Durrell's preoccupation with brothels, also expressed repeatedly in The
> Alexandria Quartet, strengthens the suggestion of a colonial view point and
> perhaps the more repulsive aspect of it, depicting the western resident
> indulging in the available commercial sex in an eastern seaport. Edward Said
> ****
>
> - and those who perceive "Orientalism" in western depiction of the east -
> are then justified in referring to the colonial colour of such writing. By
> implication, such writing declines in value. It almost makes The Alexandria
> Quartet into a massive piece of travel writing with flashes of literary
> merit, but it is travel writing which concentrates too much on the aspect
> of open sexual laxity in different forms, as a subject arousing the
> curiosity of readers. As a masterpiece for which the Quartet was hailed by
> reviewers in the 1950s and 1960s, the work has diminished considerably and
> almost ceases to be acknowledged now, as a lasting literary achievement.**
> **
>
> ** **
>
> This is a sad counterpoint to the rich language of Durrell in his
> description of landscape in the Quartet about which Allyson Kreuiter has
> written with such fine perception in her article forwarded by James to the
> ILDS list, "City and landscape of remembering: The visual textual
> palimpsest of Alexandria in Lawrence Durrell's Justine and Balthazar" in
> /Scrutiny2:****
>
> Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa/:****
>
> (http://academia.edu/3848804/City_and_landscape_of_remembering).****
>
> ** **
>
> Regards****
>
> ** **
>
> Sumantra****
>
> ** **
>
> ** **
>
> ------------------------------****
>
> ** **
>
> Message: 2****
>
> Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2013 08:53:01 -0700****
>
> From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>****
>
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca****
>
> Cc: Frank Kersnowski <fkersnow at trinity.edu>****
>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] FW: ILDS Digest, Vol 75, Issue 3_Frank****
>
>             Kersnowski_"The Alexandria Quartet: A Reconsideration."****
>
> Message-ID: <51DD835D.8060309 at gmail.com>****
>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252; format=flowed****
>
> ** **
>
> Hi Frank & Sumantra,****
>
> ** **
>
> I'm enjoying reading these comments, but a new baby (and somewhat upset***
> *
>
> toddler) are keeping me from commenting as much as I would like...****
>
> ** **
>
> I think a comparison that might help here is Durrell in relation to other
> British writers in Egypt at the time, such as Robert Liddell, G.S. ****
>
> Fraser, Herbert Howarth, and D.J. Enright.****
>
> ** **
>
> I don't want to take away from the merits of Sumantra's comments on
> Orientalism, which certainly has a role, and I would think is most
> particularly a factor in the work's reception.  That said, the sexuality in
> the Quartet has always struck me as somewhat disgusting...  Durrell's not
> prudish about the brothels, but the opening epigrams to Justine set Sade
> against Freud, and I think we're supposed to be on Freud's side (Sade just
> leaves to the noose and loss of the self subsumed under the city's
> determinist will, almost a form of economism).  Said caught on to this in
> his Beirut lectures and says that Western readers are imagining themselves
> as the sexual heroes in the Quartet -- that's where I would disagree with
> him.  I've never wanted to be Darley, and I can't imagine many readers wish
> for Pursewarden's love life nor to enter the novel's brothel scenes.****
>
> ** **
>
> To complicate the matter a bit, Howarth co-edited /Images of the Arab
> World/ (translations of Arabic poetry) with Ibrahim Shakrullah.  Durrell
> was responsible for Albert Cossery's & Georges Henein's works reaching
> Circle and City Lights Books in San Francisco, and he gave financial
> support to Cossery.  Durrell was championing Elie Papadimitriou's poetry at
> the same time as well.****
>
> ** **
>
> D.J. Enright, well, I'm not quite as generous...****
>
> ** **
>
> I suppose what I mean is that I think calling the Quartet a colonialist
> revel in the sexualization of the exploited bodies of colonized Others
> misses some of the disgust in the novel, it's ethical arch to overcome the
> determinism of the city's libidinal coercion, and its textual
> complexities.  I suppose I don't see Pursewarden as a hero and only think
> we're supposed to admire Darley once he's overcome the sadistic city.****
>
> ** **
>
> All best,****
>
> James****
>
> ** **
>
> On 2013-07-10 1:04 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:****
>
> > Frank,****
>
> >** **
>
> > I did want to mention an aspect of Durrell which seemed to have ****
>
> > emerged during his interview reported in your paper. There, Durrell ****
>
> > says that in the /Quartet /he had succeeded in bringing the red light **
> **
>
> > district back to Alexandria.****
>
> >** **
>
> > What is this achievement supposed to mean? In a 1977 interview Durrell *
> ***
>
> > reports a conversation with his ambassador on the existence of a ****
>
> > brothel in Alexandria. Durrell then says that he transposed a brothel **
> **
>
> > area from Cairo to Alexandria in the /Quartet/. He was trying to ****
>
> > recall the brothels of Alexandria which had been closed by Montgomery **
> **
>
> > ? sent to the desert - by the time Durrell and his contemporaries
> arrived.****
>
> >** **
>
> > Durrell also wrote a poem /Elegy on the Closing of the French Brothels/.
> ****
>
> >** **
>
> > Durrell?s preoccupation with brothels, also expressed repeatedly in ****
>
> > /The Alexandria Quartet/, strengthens the suggestion of a colonial ****
>
> > view point and perhaps the more repulsive aspect of it, depicting the **
> **
>
> > western resident indulging in the available commercial sex in an ****
>
> > eastern seaport. Edward Said - and those who perceive ?Orientalism? in *
> ***
>
> > western depiction of the east - are then justified in referring to the *
> ***
>
> > colonial colour of such writing. By implication, such writing declines
> in value.****
>
> > It almost makes /The Alexandria Quartet /into a massive piece of ****
>
> > travel writing with flashes of literary merit, but it is travel ****
>
> > writing which concentrates too much on the aspect of open sexual ****
>
> > laxity in different forms, as a subject arousing the curiosity of ****
>
> > readers. As a masterpiece for which the /Quartet /was hailed by ****
>
> > reviewers in the 1950s and 1960s, the work has diminished considerably *
> ***
>
> > and almost ceases to be acknowledged now, as a lasting literary
> achievement.****
>
> >** **
>
> > This is a sad counterpoint to the rich language of Durrell in his ****
>
> > description of landscape in the /Quartet/ about which Allyson Kreuiter *
> ***
>
> > has written with such fine perception in her article forwarded by ****
>
> > James to the ILDS list, "City and landscape of remembering: The visual *
> ***
>
> > textual palimpsest of Alexandria in Lawrence Durrell's Justine and ****
>
> > Balthazar" in****
>
> > /Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa/:****
>
> > (http://academia.edu/3848804/City_and_landscape_of_remembering).****
>
> >** **
>
> > Regards****
>
> >** **
>
> > Sumantra****
>
> ** **
>
> End of ILDS Digest, Vol 75, Issue 5****
>
> ***************************************
>
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