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

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 6 12:08:55 PST 2015


G. R Taneja,

In Empire (2002), Niall Ferguson is quite unsparing of his criticism of British racism in India during the period of the Raj.  He also fully elaborates on the content of your second paragraph.  Dane Kennedy in The Magic Mountains:  Hill Stations and the British Raj (1996) makes similar statements about the isolation of Brits in India as a reflection of their racism.  I don’t think these books are in the vanguard of a new awareness, and I don’t think the racial attitudes of the British in India have been kept a secret from the public.  These have been recognized for some time—and deplored.  I would also go back to Forster’s Passage to India (1924) and Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet (1965-1975) as (in part) fictional studies of British racism.   Neither of which I would call cliché-ridden.  Ferguson comments on these books and notes, “It is no coincidence that the plots of the Raj’s best known novels—Forster’s A Passage to India and Scott’s The Jewel in the Crown—begin with an alleged sexual assault by an Indian man against an English woman” (p. 169).  “Inter-racial rape” is simply another aspect of British racial fears, indeed, of White racism in the main.  Lest I fault the Brits exclusively, there are many notorious examples of this in the American South.  William Faulkner writes about this fear extensively.  We should also remember that xenophobia is not limited to Westerners or “Orientalists,” as Edward Said would have it.

As to Durrell himself, I haven’t read Pied Piper of Lover, so I can’t comment on the author’s motivations.  But I do know how he later portrayed his remembrance of his Indian childhood, undoubtedly Kiplingesque and romanticized—nevertheless, neither would I call this cherished memory a bunch of clichés.  I would call it authentic and deeply felt.

Bruce





> On Dec 6, 2015, at 10:43 AM, G. R. Taneja <grtaneja47 at hotmail.com> wrote:
> 
> 
> Bruce:
>  
> To your commnet that
>  
> “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 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.”  
> Gulshan
> 
> 
> Warmly,
> 
> G R Taneja
> 
> In-between Website: <http://sites.google.com/site/ <http://sites.google.com/site/inbetweeneslc>inbetween <http://sites.google.com/site/inbetweeneslc>eslc <http://sites.google.com/site/inbetweeneslc>>
> 
> G. R. Taneja  /  Editor
> In-between: Essays & Studies in Literary Criticism
> Department 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.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Dec 5, 2015, at 3:02 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com <mailto: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 <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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