[ilds] D. J. Enright

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 27 11:26:43 PDT 2014

Sumantra, glad you brought up D. J. Enright (1920-2002).  He should be remembered — in his own right and also because his life is the obverse of L. G. Durrell’s.  Both were men of letters:  poets and novelists.  Their paths were similar but never crossed.  Durrell claimed he failed the entrance exams to Cambridge.  Enright obtained a degree at Downing College, Cambridge, and was associated with F. R. Leavis, who taught at Downing.  DJE and LGD lived in Alexandria, at different times, and wrote very different novels about the city.  Enright obtained a Ph.D. at Farouk I University in Alexandria, where he defended his thesis on Goethe in French.  He later revised the Modern Library translation of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.  In The Quartet, Durrell talks about the East and its charms, sensual and philosophical.  Enright lived much of his life there (Thailand, Japan, Singapore) and indulged similar interests, opium among them but kept up his passion for Virgil’s Eclogues.  He was Professor of English at the University of Singapore and was kicked out of the country for acerbic opinions about the city state that would have made Ludwig Pursewarden proud.  That tale is retold in his Memoirs of a Mendicant Professor (1969).  Oxford published his Collected Poems in 1998, favorably reviewed by Helen Vendler.  Although a Romantic in his travels, Enright was not a Romantic when it came to Egypt.  In “Why the East Is Inscrutable” (Alexandria, 1948), he writes, “Sometimes the East is too hot / To be scrutable . . . Wait for winter, / Mildly trying, meanwhile, not to make / Too many enemies.”  Durrell restricted such comments to his letters.  Would Durrell have made Enright’s enemies list?  Maybe.  His opinions of Durrell are not flattering.  As Sumantra notes, Enright's review of The Quartet, “Alexandrian Nights’ Entertainments,” is largely negative.  Enright concludes:  “When Durrell is good he is very good, and when he is bad he is horrid.”  A good Latinist, he places emphasis at the end.  Which of the two will endure longer?  Durrell, undoubtedly.  But Enright has his place.


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