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

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 6 09:03:11 PST 2015

It’s probably hard for us in the 21st century to appreciate, but the Brits in India—the “Anglo-Indians” or the “Anglo-Irish” (if correct)—were often big racists.  The historian Niall Ferguson (a Scot educated at Oxford [DPhil]) has written about this in Empire (2002).  He describes how the Brits in the 19th century and early 20th, as a rule, believed in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race and its “God-given right” to rule the world under the auspices of the “British Empire.”  Ferguson, however, sharply distinguishes between the British Civil Service in India (relatively few in number, perhaps a thousand) and the British missionary and mercantile class (the great majority of the colonials).  The former (usually recruited from Oxbridge) he admires for its rigorous requirements of service (e.g., a knowledge of Hindi was necessary) and its respect for Indian culture.  The latter he abhors for its attempts to convert, reform, and exploit “the heathen.”  Given this pervasive culture among the Anglo-Indians, it’s quite remarkable that Lawrence Durrell identified with and honored the land of his birth.  I would add that Edward W. Said does not make any such distinction in his Orientalism (1978) and lumps Western attitudes under the latter class.


> On Dec 5, 2015, at 3:02 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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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