[ilds] The Index to Prospero's Cell

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Tue Jul 22 10:36:21 PDT 2014

James – just read your post and agree with it: interesting and eloquent as
always. However, I still feel compelled to share the following:

“Knives out! I think this is a great topic – and Bruce & I are in violent
agreement about some of his assertions, but I have at least one quibble,
and also a new controversial theory to share. My first quibble is calling
PC (and by extension MV and BL) “travel books.” Obviously Sicilian Carousel
is a travel book, describing a short duration vacation trip. The Greek
Islands is more of a guidebook, though it would also be found in the Travel
section of the bookstore. But the other three (or let’s make it four with
CVG) – no, these are not remotely travel books as I would categorize them.

Here’s a second quibble: does the inclusion of an index really make ‘the
narrative seem factual’? As you say, N. is not in the index – and neither
are cherries: one of the most memorable (and as you say, poetic and
allegedly non-factual) incidents in the book. It seems to me that almost
any book could have an index if the author or editor wants to go to the
trouble. Many fiction books include a list of Dramatis personae, which is

OK – are you ready for my theory? Bruce and I agree that Count D. is
probably a stand-in for Durrell, just as ‘Old D, the Devil at Large’ is in
the Avignon Quintet. This belief is contradicted by Durrell’s dedication to
PC, where he asserts that the Count D. is one of the four ‘real people’ in
the book. Either he’s lying about that, which is also called fiction – but
really, who else dedicates a book (at least in part) to himself! Or else
Bruce & I are mistaken. Or, a third option…

Let’s follow the Index to ‘the retreat of Count D.’ on page 69 (ha!) – and
read the description: “The old Count, a man of about sixty, was stocky and
heavily built; he possessed a pair of remarkable eyes set in a head which
was a little too big for his body.” More: “Comfortably off, fond of his
cellar and his immense library, he is content to spend summer and winter
beyond the limited range of town amusements and gossip.” Guess what: the
Count D. is Durrell’s future self! He’s like a time traveler, visiting the
33 year old skinny young author. Not an alter ego – not a lie. As Durrell
stated in the famous NOTE in Balthazar: a ‘science-fiction.’ What do you
think of that?”

Cheers - Ken

On Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 9:48 AM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>

> I am remembering with much fondness a visit to Freddie's in Louisville,
> which is an experience I recommend to all on the list for a companion piece
> to the 2015 Durrell Society panels in the February conference on 20th
> Century Literature and Culture...  It's conveniently adjacent to the
> voluptuous Brown Hotel and provides its own voluptuaries.
> Charles Sligh and I had a very generous gin & tonic while chatting through
> the archival traces of memory Old D uses so much.  In fact, we chatted
> about this very book and matter, though I think it was a bit mixed up with
> other travel writers of the Fermour, Byron, & Douglas types.  Charles was a
> bit pointed in his remarks, which is unlike the man, so I kept it in mind
> and think I can represent his views faithfully.
> Prospero's Cell would make much more sense if one reads the book from
> within the context of High Travel writing; Durrell is making his own
> innovations upon the styles of Douglas, Byron, &c., and readers of those
> authors always understood that gentleman travelers do not tell everything
> and change names and events and make minimal mention of companions; yes, a
> certain literacy matters in this elite sort of writing.
> I also remember him saying, and I'm pretty sure I've got this near word
> for word, one should also look at the front matter for the 1945 printing of
> PC -- if I recall correctly, LD mentions that Miss Yvette Cohen helped with
> the typing -- the reduction of Nancy to N. and a smaller role is partly
> understandable when we keep that production reality at the fore.
> I shared with him years ago my transcripts from the Gennadius Library as
> well, which includes some risque limericks, which Seferis had been writing
> and Durrell had been expanding.  He also had five unpublished mss. by
> Stephanides to sort through, perhaps verbatim.
> Personally, I've always taken Durrell's oft-repeated phrase, "Pursewarden
> wrote somewhere..." or "I remember Stephanides once saying..." as really
> meaning "I'm pinching this bit."  If not pinching, I'm inclined to read
> those phrases as meaning "I'm completely fabricating something impossible
> here, so I'll give it a quick brush up of the ol' Victorian 'oops, I found
> a tablet with evidence on it' trick to lend just the hint of reality to
> fiction..."
> And let's not forget that Gerald's /My Family and Other Animals/ erases
> Nancy entirely.  At least Durrell was open about the fictional nature of
> the "diary" dating of /PC/.
> Cheers,
> James
> On 2014-07-22, 9:01 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> I agree with Ken's thorough explanation.  As he says, this raises other
>> issues, one of those is the facticity of /Prospero's Cell,/ a subject
>> discussed years ago on the List but worthy of further comment.  When I
>> first read/ Prospero's Cell,/ I naively took it to be an accurate
>> account of Durrell's experiences on Corfu, 1935-1939.  It's not.  It's a
>> deliberate deception, part fact, much fiction, and much poetry (which
>> beautifully disguises the fiction).  Michael Haag convinced me of this.
>>   (I also believe that what's true of /PC/ is also true of Durrell's
>> other travel books.  This could lead to a long discussion of the
>> "truthiness" of travel literature in general!)  Durrell is obviously the
>> author of his own book and is obviously and ultimately responsible for
>> everything that goes in it.  He makes the selections of what goes into
>> the story.  But what about the Index, a device which makes the narrative
>> seem factual?  Did Durrell make the Index or did some editor at Faber?
>>   If the Index is Durrell's, then it shows what he considers important.
>>   Not all proper nouns are in the Index.  For example, "N." (Nancy) is
>> not, but the Van Norden (the sailboat) is.  Nancy bought the sailboat
>> but does not get a place in the Index.  I find this interesting.
>> Bruce
> _______________________________________________
> ILDS mailing list
> ILDS at lists.uvic.ca
> https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20140722/ac05c3c7/attachment.html>

More information about the ILDS mailing list