[ilds] Mythology in Durrell

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 1 11:59:27 PST 2015


As cited below, I highly recommend Carol Peirce’s “A Fellowship in Time:  Durrell, Eliot, and the Quest of the Grail.”  She is very good at putting in historical context Durrell’s use of the Grail myth and the Fisher King.  This does not answer my question, however, of how seriously myth should be taken in Durrell’s oeuvre.  Pierce quotes a letter from Durrell to Eliot, where the latter plays the role of father confessor:

[M]y problems are not technical but personal.  It remains only to see whether I develop as a person; the mere writing is nothing compared to the grind of personality against its own sicknesses.

I find the statement revealing.  I would submit that Durrell’s use of mythology, as he himself eloquently explains, is a screen for “the grind of personality against its own sicknesses.”  He doesn’t elaborate on these “sicknesses” (how could he?), but as bits of his personality are exposed (see Richard Pine on Durrell’s misogyny [21 Nov. 2015]), new ways open up to look at his works.  I would emphasize the new ways and downplay the mythic allusions.

Bruce



> On Dec 1, 2015, at 9:08 AM, david wilde <wilded at hotmail.com> wrote:
> 
> My apologies for giving the 'wrong' citation.  It should have been: 
> 
> 
> "In Arthurian legend <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthurian_legend> the Fisher King, or the Wounded King, is the last in a long line charged with keeping the Holy Grail <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Grail>. Versions of his story vary widely, but he is always wounded in the legs or groin <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groin> and incapable of moving on his own. In the Fisher King legends, he becomes impotent and unable to perform his task himself, and he also becomes unable to father or support a next generation to carry on after his death. His kingdom <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchy> suffers as he does, his impotence affecting the fertility of the land and reducing it to a barren wasteland <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasteland_%28mythology%29>. All he is able to do is fish <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishing> in the river near his castle, Corbenic <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corbenic>, and wait for someone who might be able to heal him. Healing involves the expectation of the use of magic. Knights travel from many lands to heal the Fisher King, but only the chosen can accomplish the feat. This is Percival <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percival> in earlier stories; in later versions, he is joined by Galahad <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galahad> and Bors <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bors>.
> Many works have two wounded "Grail Kings" who live in the same castle, a father and son (or grandfather and grandson). The more seriously wounded father stays in the castle, sustained by the Grail alone, while the more active son can meet with guests and go fishing. For the purposes of clarity in the remainder of this article, where both appear, the father will be called the Wounded King, the son the Fisher King."
> 
> 
> From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:56:45 -0800
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Alcoholism
> 
> Numbers?  Supporters?  I guess one can always says imagery is multivalent and the author omniscient.  But I tend to see Durrell’s “wound” usage in the primary context of his concerns about sex, sexuality, gender, and violence—all big topics of a personal nature.  I don’t see von Eschenbach’s story/myth about Parsifal’s pursuit of the Holy Grail as particularly relevant, unless you want to argue that Darley and his Alexandria are suffering from some kind of psychic impotence.  Could be the case, however.  If so, then the argument has to be made.  I believe we’re discussing where and what to emphasize.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Nov 30, 2015, at 10:40 AM, david wilde <wilded at hotmail.com <mailto:wilded at hotmail.com>> wrote:
> 
> Bruce.  Wouldn't wish to underestimate Mr Durrell.  Look at the numbers?  David Wilde
> Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:50:10 -0500
> From: frederick.schoff at gmail.com <mailto:frederick.schoff at gmail.com>
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
> Subject: Re: [ilds] Alcoholism
> 
> 
> I would be interested!
> 
> BTW - I was starting an AQ reread and noticed in particular all the references to mirrors in the early section. Also, a great image of the Cohen character having slipped out of sight, like a piece shifting with a slight twist of the kaleidescope.
> 
> - Rick
> 
> On Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 12:32 PM, sharbani banerjee(mukherjee) <sharbanibm at gmail.com <mailto:sharbanibm at gmail.com>> wrote:
> Hi James, Thanks for the thesis note. Yes, I do have a digital copy in parts, which I need to compile together. I will surely do that if it interests anybody. I did a bit of work on Durrell's use of myth, his obsession with mirrors/reflections, use of the carnival as a trope etc
> All the best
> Sharbani
> On 30-Nov-2015 9:14 pm, "Bruce Redwine" <bredwine1968 at gmail.com <mailto:bredwine1968 at gmail.com>> wrote:
> I believe James is referring to Carol Peirce’s “A Fellowship in Time:  Durrell, Eliot, and the Quest of the Grail,” in Lawrence Durrell:  Comprehending the Whole, ed. J. R. Raper, M. L. Encore, and P. M. Bynum (Columbia:  U of Missouri P, 1995):  70-81.  Good essay.  A Northrup Frye approach, Peirce discusses Durrell and the “Grail-quest” in the context of Eliot’s Waste Land and the Four Quartets.  She does not mention, however, Parsifal, the wound, and von Eschenbach.  Personally, I doubt Durrell intended the allusion, although possible.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 

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