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

G. R. Taneja grtaneja47 at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 6 10:43:21 PST 2015



To your
commnet that


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


––the only
thing I can say is that the Brits in India 
were invariably racists, and nothing but racists and this fact did not
emerge out of scholarship that emerged in 2002. 
This is a cliché of British Indian history books by both English and Indian historans. The anecdotal evidence of Indians and the English socialising in India are grand exception to the
narrative. Let’s not forget the fact constantly underlined in British Indian history
books (at all levels and throughout this period and since)  that the English from 1857 onwards lived in
constant terror of the native mobs attacking the English “sections” of the
towns. 1857 attack on the civilians and ruthless butchering of the English
civilians during the early months of the confrontation was never ever forgotten
for full hundred years.  


Also, I am not
able to see how “it’s quite remarkable that Lawrence Durrell identified with
and honored the land of his birth.” I am sure I am missing the point you are making.  Perhaps I shall be forgiven if I quote from my
 Durrell article that has been referred
to several of my friends on the list:


“In Pied Piper of Lovers Durrell
praised the hill servants, but he caricatured the ordinary natives in terms
that would have amused the most pukka sahib—‘they were thieving groveling,
“sons and daughters of sows” with . . . “raised black paws”, and
they beat their wives.’ The book, as McNiven remarks, was to be a memorial to
the Kim aspect of Larry’s past (1998, 91). What I regret about this remark
is not that it is not complimentary or even incorrect but that this is a cliché
that one could have found in any Englishman writing about India during
the Raj.”  



G R Taneja

In-between Website: 

G. R. Taneja 
 /  Editor

In-between: Essays & Studies in Literary Criticism

 of English, R. L. A. College, University of Delhi

Anand Niketan 
Colony, Benito Juarez Marg,

New Delhi-110 021,  India 

From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Date: Sun, 6 Dec 2015 09:03:11 -0800
To: james.d.gifford at gmail.com; ilds at lists.uvic.ca
CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Subject: Re: [ilds] Remembering Lawrence Durrell,	Predictor of our Postmodern World_By Peter Pomerantsev 6/25/2012

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:



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,

On 2015-12-05 12:14 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:

‘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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