[ilds] The Carnival Set Piece in Balthazar

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 20 12:00:19 PDT 2014


Terry Castle won the William Riley Parker Award for the best article in PMLA in 1984:  "The Carnivalization of Eighteenth-Century English Narrative."  A superb essay.  In her book Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford 1986), equally impressive, she has this to say about Durrell's carnival in Balthazar:  "The operatic exploitation of the masquerade mediates several of the handful of masquerade scenes in twentieth-century literature.  Again, the set piece occurs only in the most self-consciously exotic and nostalgic contexts.  In Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (1962), for example, a fantastic costume ball in Egypt is the scene of a Verdi-esque assassination, following which the murder weapon is discovered in a pile of black dominos" (340).  Castle is a superb reader of eighteenth-century English fiction, Fielding in particular, but I don't think she does justice to Durrell and his intentions.
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