[ilds] A teaser

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 14 10:19:13 PST 2015

A nice tease.  It brings us back to Durrell’s underrated book, The Dark Labyrinth (1947).  I’d forgotten about the “statues.”  Correct me if I’m wrong, but the statues get several references regarding their authenticity.  This frequency calls special attention to itself, although my memory was faulty.  Here’s one from the chapter “City in the Rock”:

He stepped forward into the little chapel and found his attention arrested by the perfect detachment and purity of the statues, by the coarse yet sensitive stone-cutting of the bas-relief.  No, his experience had not been at fault.  These were certainly not fakes:  they were too weathered and lichened by damp:  too self-consciously primitive and innocent to deceive.     (165-66)

I assume this passage is what Richard has in mind.  Our “attention” should be “arrested,” along with Graecen’s.

Now, did Durrell borrow this theme from the unidentified novel of 1937.  (No bells are ringing for me!)  I don’t see that this really matters (unless someone can draw an important connection).  At the time of writing Labyrinth, Durrell was surely aware of the huge market in fake artifacts supposedly from antiquity.  Sumantra mentions Douglas’s South Wind (1917).  After all, Durrell lived in Cairo and had visited the famous Khan al-Kahili souk (later mentioned in “Egyptian Moments” [1978]), whose shops are full of fakes (along with some real treasures).  An “Aladdin’s cave,” he later called it.  So the idea of fake statutes was well-known and “ubiquitous,” as Richard suggests.

More importantly, what role does fakery have in the novel?  Why all the references?  What was Durrell up to, if anything?  Was the labyrinth another “Aladdin’s cave?”  Perhaps someone can explain.


> On Dec 13, 2015, at 8:57 AM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org wrote:
> Here's a teaser. The following is a quote from a source I won't identify. If you know the source, you already know it, it you don't, you don't need to know, but it's a fictional story>
> "---- played a horrid trick on ---- and got a sculptor he knows to make a [statue of Apollo] and fake it to look old. Then he pretended that a friend of his had found it in Sicily". ---- fell for this beastly thing and wrote an article on it for "The Archaeolgist" ...."
> It's from a novel published in 1937. Ring any bells? 
> The question is: it's almost certain that LD did not know of this novel. Therefore he could not have had the idea from this novel of a fake statue "found" in Sicily (which in the novel leads to a vendetta between the progenitor of the fake and its victim). So, if the same idea came into LD's head when conceiving Dark Labyrinth, was such an idea common at that time or is this an extraordinary coincidence?
> Should literary sleuths bend every sinew to try to establish that L D DID in fact know this specific story or would their time be better spent arguing over the uniquity of such fictions or such pranks in the 1930s? Or should they just get on with enjoying Dark Labyrinth?
> (The novel from which the idea is taken is not, in fact, a great read - another reason for my not identifying it to those who don't recognise the story)
> RP
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