[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 104, Issue 15_Message 5_David Green

Sumantra Nag sumantranag at gmail.com
Fri Dec 18 22:05:32 PST 2015

I am inclined to take note of this positive view about Durrell's writing
and David's expression about the writing as:

" . . a form of truth if you like, with artistic embellishment or omission
as suited his purpose . . "

I have only recently come across Linda Radhidi's publication,
'(Re)constructing Reality, Complexity in Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria
Quartet', 2005, Peter Lang. Inc., New York. (Studies in Twentieth-Century
British Literature.)

Starting right from the significant opening lines of Justine, Linda has
applied a linguistic model to analyse phrases in each of the four novels of
the Quartet, and describe the purpose and effect of Durrell's specific
selection of words.

This close analysis - or dissection if you like - recreates the writer's
mood, his reflections about his experience of Alexandria, his perceptions
about the people and events in the city and his own relationship with them.

In an introductory chapter the book also places the Quartet in the context
of Durrell's professed philosophical references, including relativity and
Groddeck's psychological framework. Linda has referred to critical comments
on Durrell and examined the exploration of reality in the novels of the

It is very likely that this perfunctory  summary of Linda Rashidi's book is
superfluous and that many on the ILDS Forum are familiar with the
publication. But  I felt I should draw attention to this work, and David's
post, referring to the development of Durrell's writing in his successive
books, provided me with a tenuous context against which to do so!

Personally I find it significant because of its focus on the language of
Durrell which in my opinion - echoed I think in some of the critical
writing - drives the creation in the novels of the Quartet.

Message: 5
Date: Fri, 18 Dec 2015 19:26:19 +1100
From: Denise Tart & David Green <dtart at bigpond.net.au>
To: Durrell list <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Subject: [ilds] Phoneyness and other beasts
Message-ID: <0AFC5C07-8DDA-4C8E-966B-9D5E0023369A at bigpond.net.au>
Content-Type: text/plain;       charset=us-ascii

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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