[ilds] Is D Durrell?

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Thu Jul 24 14:01:31 PDT 2014

“…critics want to see Prospero’s Cell as fact”?

I don’t think so Bruce. Hard to say what these strawman “critics” see as a
group – but as a reader I don’t need to read one of my favorite books as
any kind of “fact.”

I love Freya Stark’s blurb: ‘One of Lawrence Durrell’s best books – indeed,
in its gem-like miniature quality, among the best books ever written.” I
totally agree with that.

Cheers - Ken

On Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

> Thanks for the commentary, Anna.  Discussion is good.  It easiest for me
> to respond by doing it interlinear fashion.  My responses are numbered.
> Bruce
> On Jul 24, 2014, at 10:32 AM, Anna Lillios <anna at ucf.edu> wrote:
> In the same *OMG II* article Bruce cites, Ian says, “Durrell is *himself *
> Justine.”  If Durrell is Justine—and Count D and Darley and Pursewarden
> and maybe even Clea—why is that surprising?  Authors have always buried
> themselves into their narratives.
> 1.  Not at all surprising.  What is surprising is the reluctance to
> acknowledge that Durrell is playing a game with Count D. and using him as a
> mouthpiece for his views.  Why?  I suspect it's because critics want to see *Prospero's
> Cell* as fact and assume the people in the book are as factual as he
> desribes them.  Count D. is only real in the sense he's Durrell himself, in
> my view, of course.
> Conversely (perversely?), why can’t Count D be based on Constantine
> Palatianos?  His family felt there were similarities, as they told Ian,
> Susan, and me years ago.
> 2.  "Similarities" is weak when compared to the substantive
> correspondences I listed previously.  My theory is that the final version
> of Count D. could well have been based on Constantine Palatianos.  But
> Durrell changed "C" to "D" after he realized the full potential of his
> characterization — how it could be turned into one big joke.  And we all
> know how much Durrell liked to play Shandean jokes.  Don't you find it
> curious that the lettter *D* is also the first letter of the author's
> surname?  Loud bells should be going off.  Durrell was careful about naming
> his characters.  We have Darley's initials as L. G. D., the same as
> Durrell's.  Is Darley Durrell?  Yes and no.  But the standard critical
> practice, as I've observed, is to call him Durrell's "alter ego."  Why not
> assume Count D. is Durrell's alter ego?
> The fact of the matter is that fictional or quasi-real characters are open
> to anyone’s interpretation: “five different pictures of the same subject.”
>   They inspire us with their “truth.”  (Count D must have struck a chord
> with John Fowles, too; his Maurice Conchis in *The Magus* is certainly a
> descendant; even Count Mippipopolous in Hemingway’s *The Sun Also Rises *shares
> some similarities).
> 3.  Yes.  And that's exactly what we're doing — interpreting.  Some
> interpretations are better than others, however.  Some get closer to an
> author's aims than others.
> The same goes for Durrell as a “real” person.  When I met Durrell in
> 1986, I certainly did not regard him as “dwarflike” or even “heavily built.”
>   He was attractive for an older man and what I’d call solidly masculine.
>  I didn’t even consider him that short (he seemed to be around 5’5” or
> 5’6” to my 5’8”).   Nor did Durrell resemble Count D’s description in
> *PC.*  Durrell was gregarious and highly articulate and did not outwardly
> possess, when I was in his presence, the Count’s “speculative calm,”
> “sweetness and repose.”
> 4.  I never met Durrell.  But here I have to go with Ian MacNiven,
> Durrell's longtime friend and authorized biographer.  MacNiven describes
> him as self-conscious of his "shortness" (105). MacNiven also suggests that
> Durrell was closer to 5' 2" than 5' 4," as LD claimed on a passport.  If
> you look at the photos of Durrell in MacNiven's biography, you'll note he
> is so photographed that it makes it difficult to judge his height.  He's
> sitting or, as in the French film to which Marc Piel once provided the
> link, he's walking alone in the countryside.  I'd say all this was
> intentional; the author had something to do with how he was photographed
> during a "shoot," formal or not.  *The Paris Review* interview says,
> "Lawrence Durrell is a short man, but in no sense a small one"
> (Autumn-Winter 1960).  Which I take to mean:  short = physical size; small
> = personality and mental stature.  Moreover, dwarfs abound throughout
> Durrell's oeuvre, particularly the *Quartet.*  Why?  In *The Black Book *(Faber
> 1977), Gregory says, "My disease is the disease of the dwarf" (186).  What
> did he mean by that?  Earlier Gregory says, "The question with which I
> trouble myself is the question of the ego, the little me . . . The red
> dwarf, the lutin, the troll — the droll and abhorrent self" (32).  I'd say
> that Durrell is talking about himself.  If so, he's got problems — he's
> both jokster and self-loather.  And dwarfism, both literal and figurative,
> has a lot to do with it.  You're right, Durrell was not a dwarf in the
> clinical sense, but I do think he thought of himself as one, so the
> dwarfish description of Count D.
> Furthermore, I didn’t regard Sommieres as “a castle perilous,” as Ian did.
>   But, then, I stayed with Francoise for a week in 1992, after Durrell’s
> death.  I can understand why Ian would call Durrell’s property an
> “enchanted forest.”  He visited the home of “Mme. Tartes,” after all,
> when the house was inhabited by Durrell, and there was always excitement in
> the air when Durrell was present.  But, I saw the house and grounds in a
> different light, as typical of a well lived in and beloved French country
> estate.  I didn’t feel that Durrell consciously tried to make the
> property into a *domaine* like Fowles did at his home and garden in Lyme
> Regis (where I visited him in 1999).
> 5.  I go with Ian MacNiven's description, which occurred perhaps a decade
> before you visited "Vampire House" in 1992.  I think MacNiven was quite
> perceptive and saw the connections between the garden in Sommières and the
> various topoi of gardens (usually fallen into "desuetude") that proliferate
> throughout Durrell's oeuvre.
> I think it’s impossible to make categorical pronouncements as far as
> Durrell is concerned.  We love him and his work for this quality.  He
> allows each of us room to roam around inside his creations.
> 6.  No, I disagree with your first statement.  Durrell's work is full of
> patterns and repetitions, and I take both as evidence of his obsessions.
>  Only if you dismiss these are you afraid to draw generalizations.  Aside
> from his great poetic and narrative gifts, I admire Durrell for his
> fortitude and persistence to work through those obsessions.  I don't think
> he was ever at peace.  Maybe that is what he wished for in his
> self-idealization of Count D., someone who, as you emphasize, had attained
> "speculative calm" and "sweetness and repose."
> Anna
> ------------------------------
> *From:* ILDS [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] on behalf of Bruce Redwine [
> bredwine1968 at earthlink.net]
> *Sent:* Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:51 PM
> *To:* ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> *Cc:* Bruce Redwine
> *Subject:* Re: [ilds] Is D Durrell?
> David and Ken,
> As I've argued before, I don't think Count D. ended up being a "composite"
> character.  He may have begun that way, but the shift from "C" to "D," as
> Anna points out, indicates Durrell's final intentions.  The Count is
> Durrell in disguise, and that penchant for creating various personae
> continues throughout his long career.  My argument boils down to the "duck
> test":  "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a
> duck, then it is a duck."  This seems obvious to me.
> I agree with David's description of Durrell's use of "peasant."  He uses
> the term positively.  My sense of the word, however, based on American
> usage, conjures up images of rustics working in the fields, probably in
> some European setting.  I think of Van Gogh's painting of women planting
> potatoes or his*Potato Eaters.*  We don't use *peasant* in the States,
> maybe because of its association with class distinctions.  We Americans
> like to think of ourselves as living in a classless society, which is
> entirely false, of course.
> Ken makes a good point about travel literature.  "Island books" seems a
> more accurate classification, but then you run into the problem of his last
> work, *Caesar's Vast Ghost, *situated in Provence.  Paul Hogarth's*Mediterranean
> Shore:  Travels in Lawrence Durrell Country* (1988), which Durrell
> participated in, seems to solve the problem.  Durrell found his *deus
> loci* around the Mediterranean, as defined by the habitat of the olive,
> as he says in *Sicilian Carousel:  *"What we mean when we use the word
> Mediterranean starts there, starts at the first vital point when
> Athens enthrones the olive as its reigning queen and Greek husbandry draws
> its first breath" (65).  Beautiful.  Durrell's way of thinking is often
> Keatsian, very sensual, crushing the grape kind of thing.
> Bruce
> On Jul 24, 2014, at 12:45 AM, Denise Tart & David Green <
> dtart at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> Anna,
> thanks for the reminder about Count D being a composite character (as were
> a number of LD's characters). I think the change from Count C to count D
> gave Durrell more latitude with character in that he could put more of his
> creativity into the character and not be beholden a real person as I agree
> with James that Larry was careful of his audience and certainly less daring
> than Miller (although pulled back from publishing Air-conditioned nightmare
> until after the war).
> Durrell's 'I' is also a carefully edited version of himself. Durrell does
> not like to provide too much ammunition.
> To Marc Piel, I do not see the word peasant as pejorative, but merely
> descriptive; defining the rural poor. Durrell may simplify them for his
> readership but he does not piss on them. In England and Australia (actually
> here most people don't know what the term means) the term is pejorative,
> but I don't think Durrell uses the word this way. He appears to have had
> good relationships with the peasants in Greece and I agree with James that
> he enjoyed their company (see Clito's wine bar in BL for example). He could
> speak Greek and did not, as far as I can make out, condescend. Now, Peasant
> is a French word. you will know what it means and whether it is pejorative
> or not in your country. For Durrell it is often an endearment.
> David Whitewine
> Sent from my iPad
> On 24 Jul 2014, at 2:24 am, Anna Lillios <anna at ucf.edu> wrote:
> Two notes:
> 1)  PROSPERO'S CELL can be considered in the genre of travel books written
> by British travelers to Greece, beginning with Lord Byron.  As a grad.
> student I read around 50 of these travelogues and found that the authors
> follow a pattern: there's a search for spiritual illumination among
> classical landscapes, criticism of local Greeks for not living up their
> literary forebears, use of classical allusions and metaphors, etc.  In a
> sense, PROSPERO'S CELL goes against this grain, in that Durrell appreciated
> the contemporary citizens of Greece and their culture.
> 2)  Years ago (maybe in 1988), I accompanied Ian and Susan as they
> searched for traces of Durrell's life in Corfu.  We met relatives of the
> aristocratic family members, including the Palatianos, with whom Durrell
> hobnobbed in Corfu town and visited a house that "Count D" possibly
> inhabited.  In his biography of Durrell, Ian claims that Count D was "not
> based on a single individual, but is apparently a composite character
> grounded on several of Larry's Corfiote friends, despite the fact that
> Larry would identify the original of the Count to Henry Miller as his old
> friend Dr. Palatiano" (MacNiven 293) [LD to HM, c. October 1945, DML 186].
>  Durrell originally labeled the Count as "C" in one draft and then changed
> his name to "D" in the final.  Palatiano's first name was Constantine.
>    Anna
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