[ilds] Prospero's and Paddy

Denise Tart & David Green dtart at bigpond.net.au
Tue Jul 22 14:25:09 PDT 2014


To describe Paddy Leigh Fermor as one of the greatest travel writers of the 20th century owes as as much to Paddy's literary contacts as it does to his work. Paddy may also be described as one of the greatest bullartists of the twentieth century but we love him and his books anyway.
Cooper's biography makes it clear, and she is clearly a fan, that Paddy's books were heavily embellished, altered, rewritten and he often wrote so slowly that he had revisit places to keep writing - now with a new perspective. So his works are, as Durrell's are and Chatwin's are), a blend of real experiences, fiction, alterations, faulty memory and so on. What the writer owes the reader, apart from something interesting and readable, is truth in story telling and Durrell does this. Reading Prospero's Cell takes me to Corfu and when I went to Corfu in 1985, Durrell's corfu existed. I even found a place which I thought could have been the model for Count D's house.

Now, the count D is clearly Durrell but far from a time warp, as Ken so nicely puts it, it was Durrell already. Kalami Bay where he and Nancy lived was isolated then. Durrell lived beyond the range of town (and his crazy family) with a large library and was already fond of reading and his cellar. Durrell's fiction, including his so called travel books, came as much from his readings as from his own travel experiences. He lived a semi reclusive life with Nancy which he may have liked more than her. As to the reduction of Nancy to N, apart from this being a convention that Durrell used again in Marine Venus with E, it should be remembered that when Durrell wrote Prospero's, he and Nancy had acrimoniously separated, he was living with Eve and there may have been some pay back involved in her characterisation i.e as performing seal or lazy artist.
Miller records that Nancy and Larry argued and fought (yep, bruce, she definitely talked back) quite viciously while on Corfu, particularly by 1938, but Durrell's aim in Prospero's was to creat for the reader a paradise terrestre with the blue Mediterranean washing its gentle shores while poets and thinkers muse and talk over wine on summer evenings. In this, as well as in an evocation of landscape and lifestyle (although the harsh realities of peasant life do not feature), he succeeds brilliantly. No one can write about Greece as he can.

David





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