[ilds] Modern Bisexual Love and Beyond

Richard Pine rpinecorfu at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 5 02:22:58 PDT 2014

We must try to account, in our readings of LD, for the fact that he was many men: as a poet, he saw the world as it was and as it might be; as a young man growing up in the inter-war years he wanted to stretch out and live a different life, yet his reading of Spengler (which partly prompted Tunc/Nunquam) told him otherwise. As a diplomat in both Eastern Europe and Cyprus he was well able to appreciate the strategies employed by the superpowers to manipulate our visions of the world..... He was so 'well read' (whatever that means - his reading was voracious and very extensive in so many areas) that he was able to incorporate into his mind and its outpourings the essences of Orientalism, psychology, buddhism, ... need I go on? And (pun intended) 'a beautiful mind' - capable of the white and the dark sides.
And ... a writer in so many genres... 

On Thursday, June 5, 2014 3:14 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:


You have a more ennobling view of Lawrence G. Durrell than I do.  I do not believe Durrell was "a writer so devoted to living and writing his life with authenticity to the very end."  But it's not hard to see why.  Listen to him speak, his eloquence and humility and humanity — that is, the seductiveness of his public persona — and it's difficult to match that person with the one who had four marriages, a tendency to plagiarize, a tendency to inflate his own life's story, problems with alcohol, and a propensity for violence towards women.  For evidence of that "Durrell," read the two biographies (Bowker's and MacNiven's), Chamberlin's Chronology, and Hodgkin's memoir.  I would not use "authenticity" here in the normal usage.

My "Durrell" is the one who struggles to get through his "dark labyrinth," who is deeply and continually troubled, and who discovers in poetry and fiction an antidote to his problems.  He is Durrell Agonistes, if you will.  That Durrell is my hero and whom I consider indubitably a great writer.  He triumphs and fails, but he keeps going.

As to Durrell's bisexuality or repressed homosexuality, that is my theory, and it fits in with my provisional analysis of his personality.  I follow my nose when doing literary analysis.  Sometimes I revised, and sometimes I get nowhere and abandon.  And I may do just that.  As to speculative arguments, I think it's wise to admit from the onset that literary analysis is basically speculation, with the proviso that some speculations are better (or more interesting) than others.  Hence, theoretical approaches come and go.  Today's great theory/argument is tomorrow's deadwood.  Down the road some academic will surely say, "You had it all wrong . . . "

I also think it's necessary for those who object to my theory so strenuously to ask themselves — why the outrage?  Is it because the evidence is speculative or is it because the idea of a gay Durrell is too hard to accept?  If the former, isn't the List a forum for open discussion?  If the latter, so what?  The twentieth century's greatest writer was Marcel Proust, a homosexual, who concealed his desires in his Recherche.  Durrell should be proud to be in such company.


On Jun 3, 2014, at 2:04 PM, Lee Sternthal <lasternthal at gmail.com> wrote:

Bruce, no need to be defensive.  I've merely asked you (or anyone else) to produce any piece of writing/correspondence (in the thousands of pages available) anywhere where Durrell even circles around a same sex attraction to anyone he ever encountered in his personal life.  If you want to pursue this line of personal inquiry so passionately I suggest you do your own research on Durrell to deal with such skeptical academic amateurs such as myself.

If you can produce this writing, I respectfully stand corrected.  It would be enlightening and arguably useful.  If you can't, all the gobbledygook in the world isn't going to change it, and everything you've written is extraordinarily suspect speculation when dealing with a writer so devoted to living and writing his life with authenticity to the very end.

A man who made so much of sex and love never mentioning a homoerotic feeling, much less encounter in his own personal life?  I say again: thin.

There's not much more to be said.


On Jun 3, 2014, at 1:16 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:

Let me be presumptuous.  I believe what we need in Durrellian studies is a serious discussion of issues of sexuality in his oeuvre (the "five sexes" kind of thing and what that means, exactly).  Why did Durrell choose this subject matter — "modern bisexuality?"  What motivated him?  Was he simply doing a literary exercise?  Is he expressing his own personal needs?  How personal?  Why is there so much sex and violence in the Quartet?  Why Pursewarden's suicide (whom Durrell called his favorite character)?  Was Durrell suicidal?  How much so?  This could be extended to issues of plagiarism, untruthfulness, and incest.  Lawrence G. Durrell was very complicated, and I see little effort to account for the relationship between Durrell the man and Durrell the artist.  (Recall his final words in the Paris Review interview of 1960:  "I find art easy.  I find life difficult.")  Literary analysis, as usually approached, is fine but doesn't seem to
 get to the core problem, in my opinion — i.e., why did he "find life difficult?" — which I take as an honest confession.  Then there is the matter of taking the man at his word elsewhere — and he was never at a loss for words, except when the question got too personal.  I recall an interview where he was asked why there was so much violence in his work.  He didn't answer the question but went off on one of his eloquent diversions.  To their great credit, Ian MacNiven and Michael Haag both point out, delicately or not, Durrell's untrustworthiness.  My inclination (or fault) is to work backwards from the texts to the man.  Which, I assume, is not generally taught in English Departments — indeed, it's strongly discouraged, to put it mildly.  My inclination may bore others, but I've stated my preferences.

I take it Lee Sternthal (male I assume) has read every word Durrell ever wrote, in every published and unpublished work, in every letter, and in every diary, notebook, or scrap of paper in all the extant archives — all that he has read, so that he can now assert, "an autobiographical writer who never wrote a word  . . . "  My hat goes off for that major accomplishment.  Of course, Durrell is "an autobiographical writer," so he wrote a lot about sexuality.  Critics have to decode what he wrote.


On Jun 3, 2014, at 9:13 AM, Lee Sternthal <lasternthal at gmail.com> wrote:

Very, very thin, especially for someone who, in many ways, defined himself by his rebellion against convention.

On Jun 3, 2014, at 8:37 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:

Stranger things have happened.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 2, 2014, at 4:25 PM, Lee Sternthal <lalexsternthal at gmail.com> wrote:

an autobiographical writer who never wrote a word about his own homosexual desire for anyone his entire life was in the closet?  

doesn't make sense.  sorry.

On Jun 2, 2014, at 2:54 PM, Kennedy Gammage <gammage.kennedy at gmail.com> wrote:

That’s a good point James. Nor do I think F&F was solely concerned about suppressing sales. Their editors may have been sensitive to the fact that Durrell might be limiting himself, referring to bisexuality within what promised to be the four dimensional scheme of the Quartet. In the end he created characters who were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, people ‘wounded in their sex’…cross-dressers like Scobie (a beloved character who seems to me nothing like the author!) Not to mention brother-sister incest - in the Quartet, but also in the Revolt and the Quintet too. (Twice in the Quintet, right?) 
>Once you go the Spacetime route the genie is out of the bottle. No holds barred, the sky’s the limit!
>Cheers - Ken
>On Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 1:39 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
>Let's not forget that the "modern love" phrase was originally "bisexual love" nor that the opening epigram from Freud in /Justine/ has the "As for bisexuality, I am sure you are right!" removed by Fabers...
>>On 2014-06-02, 11:46 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>>As to the "nonsense bit," I would say we're simply following Lawrence
Durrell's own manifesto in the introduction to /Balthazar/ (1958):  "The
>>>central topic of the book is an investigation of modern love."  I don't
>>>think the permutations of "modern love" are nonsense.  Surely the author
>>>himself must be included in such a discussion.

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