[ilds] FW: Mention of the Alexandria Quartet in an Interesting and Controversial New Book

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Mon Jun 2 00:06:24 PDT 2014


James, Linda,

 

Excuse me, but now I really must ask how I see the post I have sent in the whole thread of discussions. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

From: Sumantra Nag [mailto:sumantranag at gmail.com] 
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2014 9:38 AM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca; marc at marcpiel.fr
Cc: odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Subject: Re: [ilds] Mention of the Alexandria Quartet in an Interesting and Controversial New Book

 

Marc, I agree with your view that the subject of homosexuality as a possible personal trait of the writer (Lawrence Durrell) can do him injustice, both as a writer and a person, since the manifold views show that it is still conjecture, however deeply that conjecture is examined. And what is the object of this single track of enquiry? 

We should perhaps deal more with the work of the author which has a wide field for enquiry and discussion in the ILDS Forum.

Regards

Sumantra

Sent from my Samsung Tablet

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First I have to assume that everyone on ILDS has seen it.

 

Second, it will not appear as a clearly identified reply to Marc Piel’s mail (on 2 Jun 2014 07:01 in this case).

 

Third, I will not be able to see a response appearing in sequence to my mail.

 

May I ask why this system of ‘concealing’ – forgive me for using the term only for clarity, not for imputing an intention – the post from the sender is being practiced?

 

Regards

 

Sumantra  

 

From: Sumantra Nag [mailto:sumantranag at gmail.com] 
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2014 9:38 AM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca; marc at marcpiel.fr
Cc: odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Subject: Re: [ilds] Mention of the Alexandria Quartet in an Interesting and Controversial New Book

 

Marc, I agree with your view that the subject of homosexuality as a possible personal trait of the writer (Lawrence Durrell) can do him injustice, both as a writer and a person, since the manifold views show that it is still conjecture, however deeply that conjecture is examined. And what is the object of this single track of enquiry? 

We should perhaps deal more with the work of the author which has a wide field for enquiry and discussion in the ILDS Forum.

Regards

Sumantra

Sent from my Samsung Tablet

On 2 Jun 2014 07:01, "Marc Piel" <marc at marcpiel.fr> wrote:

Hi James, Bruce,
It seems that your preoccupation with this subject just shows up your own preoccupation with homosexuality.
Nothing more. There is possibly more truth in that phrase than in your suppositions, without any facts to support them.
I can remember some photos of LD and HM; the latter was skinny dipping and LD was very embarrassed!!!
LD had lots of occasions in Egypt to make contact with homo environments and never did.
This does not mean that he was not aware of homosexuality around him; the AQ proves this.
I firmly believe that a good writer cannot write good literature unless that writer has lived the subjects he writes about. I have recently read Patrick Whites biography; he was without any doubt homosexual, which did not stop him from writing some very moving pages about heterosexual love (Mrs Fraser for example) and although he and LD had lots of possibilities to know each other, neither seemed to be attracted. This to me is far more affirmative, than all your suppositions.

We appreciate LD's writing because we understand the world (especially in Egypt) and the context in which he situates his writing; Because we understand the excerpts on homosexuality, does not make us homosexuals, nor frustrated homosexuals.

Cordialement,
Marc Piel

Le 02/06/14 00:48, James Gifford a écrit :

Hi All, 

I think this is the link to Bruce's previous post: 

https://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/Week-of-Mon-20110321/005997.html 

Just more than three years ago!  Anyone intrepid can find the article in the listserv archives as well (search engine is on the right hand side of the ILDS website: http://www.lawrencedurrell.org). 

I'd only add that Van Norden is also the man in the scene I analyze in that article -- the intimacy he shares with Miller is fairly blunt. 

I suppose my only addition would be that when we look to the queerness of the irruptions of the repressed into the text in the Quartet (and much of Durrell's other works) or the uncertainties over orientation or the universal perversions of desire, we can either look to the author and ask if he was doing this by accident (in other words, "symptomatically") or if this is part of the work.  As a reader, I'm ultimately not very concerned since I'm more interested in the text. With that proviso, I'd cautiously add that I'm fairly sure these are designed parts of Durrell's works -- they're too pervasive to be accidental, and they're too close to the ideas in his critical writing. 

So, was Durrell symptomatically referring to Van Norden?  Or was this by design?  I doubt he failed to notice the erastes/eromenos quality of his relationship with Miller.  It seems almost explicit. 

All best, 
James 


On 2014-06-01, 10:28 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote: 



Billy, 

Thanks for the response and encouragement.  Let me answer your 
questions.  Michael Haag told me he /didn't/ think Durrell was gay.  I 
assume he would also say no to repressed homosexuality.  My guess is 
that Ian MacNiven would agree with Haag on both counts.  I have no idea 
what Eve Cohen thought.  Sappho Jane did not mention her father having 
homosexual tendencies, repressed or not, in the excerpts of her diaries 
and letters published in /Granta./ 

Joseph A. Boone's article is "Mappings of Male Desire in Durrell's 
/Alexandria Quartet,"/ /South Atlantic Quarterly/ 88 (1989), 73-106. 
  It's good.  James corrected me on attributing repressed homosexuality 
to Boone's argument.  He's right.  My memory was faulty.  Boone doesn't 
explicitly say that — he sticks to the text — but I think this is 
quibbling.  Boone talks about a strange relationship between Durrell and 
Miller, especially as it began in 1935 (p. 75), and the implications of 
the sexual metaphor, "man-size piece."  He should have gone further.  I 
think what we have going on here is something similar to the culture of 
homosexuality in Classical Greece — the older male /(erastes)/ taking on 
a younger male /(eromenos)/ as his partner/beloved.  Initially Miller is 
the dominant partner, later the roles reverse.  The Greek terms are 
Kenneth Dover's in his /Greek Homosexuality/ (1978).  I am a little 
surprised Boone doesn't make the analogy.  Recall that Durrell's 
pseudonym in /Panic Spring/ (1937) is Charles Norden, that his boat on 
Corfu is the Norden, and that Van Norden is Miler's friend in /Tropic of 
Cancer./ 
/ 
/ 
This topic of Durrell's sexuality/homosexuality has been discussed 
before on the List.  Undoubtedly some are bored by it.  For more detail, 
I refer you to the post:  Miller's "Numinous Cock" v. Durrell's 
"Man-size Piece" (24 March 2011).  The exchange was largely between 
James and myself.  Neither of us have changed our positions.  Here's my 
conclusion in 2011: 

Am I arguing that Durrell and Miller had a homosexual relationship?  No. 
  Am I arguing that Durrell was in fact homosexual?  No.  I am pointing 
out certain patterns in their relationship, which suggest an erotic 
involvement or attachment.   This homoerotic affinity need not have been 
consummated to be valid.  I am also suggesting the obvious that LGD had 
a very complex personality and that any attempt to characterize him as, 
say, utterly and robustly heterosexual is trite and untrue.  In a 
personal communication, Dr. Anthony Durrell, a practicing psychiatrist, 
has compared LGD's personality to an onion skin of many layers, and 
David Green has aptly noted that the photograph of Durrell as a French 
onion seller fits Dr. Durrell's analogy (see Gordon Bowker, /Through the 
Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell,/ London 1997:  fig. of 
Durrell in London, 1985).  I agree with both of them. 


Bruce 

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