[ilds] Free Market

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Tue May 17 15:22:10 PDT 2016


Dear David & Bruce & Ric,

I do wonder about this, both because of my other research interests but 
also Durrell's long and peculiar combination of anti-Marxism and 
negative comments on industry and capitalism.  After all, while his 
generation was heading to Spain, Durrell's 1937 /Panic Spring/ opens by 
invoking "revolution" -- only it's in Greece...  The two capitalists in 
that book don't seem like model figures in any sense either (emotionally 
stunted yet rapacious).  It might be worth noting that by 1974 in 
/Monsieur/, his comments on Marx are quite different.

The mercantile spirit seems to be distinct from the honest greed he 
might at some points ascribe to a peasant, as if there's something in 
the village rather than the city to be celebrated.  While he can mock 
the peasant in a communist uniform elsewhere, overall Durrell gives his 
greatest sympathy to working "folk" outside the cosmopolitan world he 
inhabited.  A real question might also be how power and wealth are 
entangled in /Tunc/ and /Nunquam/ -- Julian wants to realize a profit 
off owning Iolanthe's contracts, but at the same time it's also because 
he can't distinguish love from domination and possession.  I don't think 
Durrell would reduce the art exhibitions in airports and other muddling 
endeavours of the Firm to the coercive law of capital's accumulation. 
Something else is afoot...

We're jumping two novels ahead too, but I think the closing destruction 
of contractual obligation is telling -- it's not that "the social" will 
evaporate or that folks may even change at all, but rather that 
spontaneous forms of organization might appear.  That is, something more 
akin to the village with its more natural order and sense of time in 
contrast to the clock of the city with its enervating will, domination, 
and unnatural forms of contract help up by force rather than their own 
merit.

In the same breath, must that be different from his thoughts on 
Gnosticism or Taoism?  Can't they simply be different parts or 
expressions of the same thought?  There are certainly those who see both 
as being radical.

I'll press the point a bit -- are these ideas already implicit in the 
anti-utopian ideas that the allusion to Dostoevsky bring out in the 
epigram?  They are, in many respects, the same issues Dostoevsky's 
narrator is grinding on about.

Best,
James


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