[ilds] Is D Durrell?

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Thu Jul 24 18:04:29 PDT 2014


I guess the ultimate arbiter of "fact" could go through the book line by
line and rule: this happened, this is fiction, this is shear poetry...

As James alludes, I've spent many hours over the last few decades making
similar judgments about The Bible...but PC is just a nice little book that
I love to read over and over.

To paraphrase a Bill Clinton joke: "When Durrell lied, nobody died."

Thanks - Ken


On Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 4:44 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
wrote:

> 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 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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