[ilds] Phoneyness and other beasts

Denise Tart & David Green dtart at bigpond.net.au
Fri Dec 18 00:26:19 PST 2015

Richard, all,

Your recent posts about Phoneyness and fakery strike me as glib or at least evasive, perhaps casting a pall of smoke around an author whose nature and modus operandi some are keen to explore further.  Anyway, here are a few thoughts -

there is Durrell scholarship that insists that all this stuff about a refracted universe and multiple perspectives is bullshit. That as Durrell lived, learned about people, events and ideas he wrote new books. In this way, Justine, which could have stood alone, became part of a four volume series. As Michel Houellebecq says in Submission:

..Privilege chronology. Not because the life has any real importance but because, taken in order, an author's books ad up to a sort of intellectual biography with a logic of its own.

he ads

Only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit with all its weaknesses and grandeurs...only literature can give you access to a spirit beyond the grave - a more direct, more complete, deeper access than you would have in a conversation with a friend (where, apparently, we all lie)..the beauty of an authors style, the music of his sentences have their importance in literature of course..but an author is above all a human being, present in his books, and whether he writes very well or very badly hardly matters - as long as he get the books written and is present in them.

If we accept these ideas, then Durrell clearly wrote very much from personal experience, a form of truth if you like, with artistic embellishment or omission as suited his purpose (is this lying?).
in Dark Labyrinth Durrell inhabits two principle characters, Lord Graecen and the young ratbag artist Campion. This follows the model (published two years earlier) of Prospero's Cell where Count D co exists with the aspiring writer Lawrence Durrell. Durrell finds meaning in these semi reclusive aristocratic characters who seem haunted by some lost eden or the failure to truly achieve and are pervaded by a sense of tedium vitae (Piers can be counted in this) 'speculative calm' shadowed by suicide.

Dark Labyrinth, it strikes me, is about post traumatic angst in the wake of World War Two. Now that the coercive and unifying impact of war and survival are removed, what is one to do? leap into the void (take a plunge on the future), find hippy heaven above the world (abjure the world) or bumble on like Graecen and Baird, the one haunted by faked academic achievement, the other the by war and murder.

Dark Labyrinth maybe a more significant work than is supposed. Gordon Bowker chose this title for his Durrell Biography and yet, mysteriously writes little about the book itself? Deliberate? 
Consider Dark Labyrinth by Lawrence Durrell - DL by LD, the devil at large (DL again). No need for smoke and mirrors, nothing is hidden.


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