[ilds] Remembering Lawrence Durrell, Predictor of our Postmodern World_By Peter Pomerantsev 6/25/2012

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sat Dec 5 15:02:48 PST 2015


Thanks for pointing us back to this article, Sumantra.  I don't know if 
it was discussed on the listserv before, but Charles Sligh and I noted 
at some point (perhaps in Louisville, maybe by phone) that one or the 
other of us must have looked absolutely awful at the centenary...  We 
were in the same room he describes as "Of the sad sprinkle of attendees 
I am only one of two people under 60."

In any case, his and your point about Durrell's Indian childhood and 
displacement to England is, I think, vital.  If you haven't a copy of 
/Pied Piper of Lovers/, my introduction to it is available online 
through the MLA Commons and outlines some of this:

http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6QS3Q

https://commons.mla.org/deposits/download/mla:376/CONTENT/pied_sample_2008.pdf/

One of the peculiarities I point to is the expression of colonial 
privilege in the novel -- the expected descriptions of Indians as 
childish or animalistic occur.  However, they're voiced by the adults 
while the child, Durrell's alter ego in the novel, retreats from them to 
seek out meaningful contact with Indians.  That's not so much to 
"rescue" Durrell from the realities of his colonial position but rather 
to note the importance of the difference from, say, Kipling or 
comparisons to Scott or Kaye.

There's a key scene in the novel in which Walsh returns to England and, 
on the ship, finds himself unable to engage with the English while also 
unable to talk with and Indian girl of his own age.  That dual 
estrangement is, I'd argue, central to all his subsequent works.

All best,
James

On 2015-12-05 12:14 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:
> http://www.newsweek.com/remembering-lawrence-durrell-predictor-our-postmodern-world-65077
>
> ‘Durrell’s characters suffer as they try to negotiate their multiverse,
> twisting themselves painfully to reconcile the impossible and dying in
> the contortions. It’s a crisis Durrell went through himself, growing up
> a third-generation Anglo-Irish colonial in India.’
>
> “I have an Indian heart and an English skin,” he said. “I realized this
> very late, when I was twenty-one, twenty-two. It created a sort of
> psychological crisis. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I realized
> suddenly that I was not English really, I was not European. There was
> something going on underneath and I realized that it was the effect of
> India on my thinking.” (Quoting Lawrence Durrell)
>
> I think part of the content here (written in an article at the time of
> Durrell’s centenary) advances the view that not just his relatively
> brief childhood in India until the age of about 12, but his inheritance
> as a third generation Anglo-Irish in India, influenced the way that he
> looked at the world.
>
> Sumantra Nag
>
>
>
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