[ilds] Is D Durrell?

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 24 16:44:28 PDT 2014


Ken, no straw men.  I previously identified whom I was referring to.  I would say this whole line of argument in support of Count D. as some historical figure or figures is based upon seeing Prospero's Cell as "fact," that is, as a true and accurate and faithful account of his years on Corfu.  It's the search for real-life antecedents.  Durrell's great genius has to do with his ability to turn fact into something imaginative, into poetry, into something "gem-like," which may have been what Freya Stark was driving at.  Bruce Chatwin had a similar genius, and he was called a "mythomaniac."

Bruce



On Jul 24, 2014, at 2:01 PM, Kennedy Gammage <gammage.kennedy at gmail.com> wrote:

> “…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> wrote:
> 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 hisPotato 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'sMediterranean 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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