[ilds] The Index to Prospero's Cell

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 23 11:00:17 PDT 2014


James,

Yes.  It's interesting how he published in small, obscure presses.  Durrell's affinity for "peasants" (without the pejorative connotations), as David previously noted, runs deep.  How deep is a matter of debate, but I'd say profound.  Most of his close friends were literary types, which is not in the least surprising given his profession.  His descriptions of the common man, particularly those of the Greeks and Turks he met on Cyprus, are genuine and moving, although I recall a talk at OMG XVIII which argued his attitude towards Greeks was derisive.  I strongly disagree with that portrayal.  I also think it significant how he often dressed (plaid shirt, rolled-up jeans, pea jacket) as an indication of his real personality.  When he put on tie and jacket, he looked awkward fulfilling his duties at literary functions.  His wanderings in "Escargo," the VW camper, are also telling.  I wouldn't say he was "a man of the people," but he was able to appreciate both worlds and seemed comfortable with the average bloke.  Henry Miller was certainly of that school too, although Miller objected to Durrell's "circle of pompous homosexual English literati" (Chamberlin, Chronology, 25).  Chamberlin calls this a "wild generalisation," but was it?

Bruce


On Jul 23, 2014, at 9:49 AM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 2014-07-22, 3:51 PM, Denise Tart & David Green wrote:
>> the way peasants feature prominently in Durrell's books
>> deserves exploration; he identified with them in someway
> 
> It's worth articulating Durrell as an author writing for a readership of which he was not a part...  I'm regularly struck by just how radical many of his closest friends were.  The aristocracy and educated elite are certainly there, and they are certainly a part of his readership -- Durrell, as you say, was not writing for Orwell's coal miners, but then again, neither was Orwell.
> 
> Durrell was an outsider in the public school system and never went to university, not even a polytechnic.  His diplomatic service kept him in a particular crowd, but his most sustained literary relationship was with Henry Miller, a self-professed radical who didn't even have a bank account until late in life, and Durrell continued to turn to radical small presses across his career, from Bern Porter to Grey Walls Press, etc.
> 
> Yet he was never radical enough nor even explicit enough to ever give offense to his audience.
> 
> It strikes me that Durrell enjoyed his time with peasants, and generally with those who wouldn't be reading his books, though he presents a simplified image of them to his audience.  Orwell (whose work I like very much) may have elevated the same groups, but he didn't enjoy his visits with them...  Maybe that's why I tend to look for irony in Durrell and allegory in Orwell.
> 
> All best,
> James
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