[ilds] Free Market

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Wed May 18 12:59:49 PDT 2016


Once again Durrell proves me an idiot. Just one page after my Snowdenesque
rant about the impossibility of Abel's omniscience, Felix admits the
'carefully prepared hoax' - he 'got the facts from [Nash's] girl herself.'
Here's where we learn that this first scene in Poggio's cellar with Nash
and Vibart takes place at or near the end of the two Revolt novels, Felix
vomiting while remembering Iolanthe, Benedicta & her brothers...

Here's Felix's latest invention - the dactyl, a speech recognition word
processor. We have these now in 2016, though they are by no means fully
deployed in society. 'It could put all the stenographers in the world out
of business in a matter of weeks.' Yes, times have changed since 1968.
Diana Menuhin was wrong - this is a very interesting book.

- Ken

On Wed, May 18, 2016 at 11:58 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
wrote:

> James,
>
> As we’ve discussed before, Durrell encourages multiple interpretations of
> his work.  So one can emphasize Marxism, as you apparently do, or
> Gnosticism, as I prefer.  But I do think the bedrock of his “philosophy” is
> some combination of Gnosticism and Taoism.  Superficially, both reject the
> material world, so in that sense they’re “expressions of the same thought.”
>  In my opinion, Gnosticism also had great appeal to Durrell’s artistic
> instincts (it’s exotic, makes for good plots, and sets up conflict),
> whereas Taoism appealed to his religious impulses (as seen in Heraldic
> Universe and yoga).
>
> The contrast between the mercantile city and the agrarian countryside is
> interesting and invites a simplistic dualism:  city evil, country good.
> We’re led to see that in Iolanthe’s nostalgia for “her father’s island” (p.
> 344; 6.1), Caradoc’s apparent escape into an East Indian backwater, and
> Felix’s apparent disappearance onto some Greek island.  Do these places
> represent some Marxist haven of proletariat harmony?  I doubt it.  The
> countryside outside London is no haven—more like a gothic landscape in E.
> A. Poe.  Yes, Durrell had a strong pastoral instinct (Darley and his island
> refuge in the Cyclades), but, like Conrad, he was also wary of what it
> could lead to.  So, Caradoc turns into another Kurtz of *Heart of
> Darkness*.  He becomes a wild androgyne (which in itself raises big
> questions about Durrell’s thought and possible inclinations).  Raymond
> Williams in *The Country and the City* (1973) explores the role of
> pastoralism in depth.
>
> 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.
>
>
> Yes, this seems right, as far as where Durrell places his hopes.  I wonder
> about the “natural order” of the village, however.  Durrell liked to
> interact with the common folk of various village, but villages have complex
> social organization (so ethnography teaches us).  They’re not the simple
> peasant writ large, just as English phonology is not simply the “raw
> material” of 44 phonemes.  Is Durrell dreaming, romanticizing, as Felix
> does at Iolanthe’s deathbed?
>
> Is the epigraph “anti-utopian?”  I would say it’s anti-logic,
> anti-causality.  It’s what Durrell describes about the Heraldic Universe in
> “Ideas about Poems.”
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
> On May 17, 2016, at 3:22 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> 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
>
>
>
> Yes, David, indeed.  Good to hear from you.  Near the end of *Tunc*, we
> have Julian telling Felix this:  “The firm isn’t just an extension of moral
> qualities, a product of a wicked human will, of a greedy mercantile
> spirit.  It goes deeper than that.  I mean, it has always existed in one
> form or another.”  He continues, “The firm isn’t inflexible … Despite its
> size it is a pretty fragile thing … that is the sanctity of the contractual
> obligation.  If you abrogate that you begin to damage the essential fabric
> of the thing.  Naturally it will try to protect itself like any other
> organism” (pp. 324-25; 5.4).
>
> In essence, “the firm” has taken out a patent on Felix himself through the
> “contract,” which is just another Faustian bargain with the devil.  Felix
> belongs to it or them and has sacrificed his “freedom” (a big word in the
> novel).  He has become what is now, in today’s lingo, called, a “profit
> center.”
>
> I think, however, too much can be made of Durrell on the evils of the free
> market, Adam Smith, and all that.  Rather, I think Gnosticism underlies
> much of this thinking—“It goes deeper than that”—that is, matter is evil,
> and the Demiurge (Julian) rules all.  That’s the real basis to his thought,
> in my opinion.
>
> Keep it coming!
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
> On May 17, 2016, at 1:02 PM, Denise Tart & David Green <
> dtart at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
>
> Ah yes, the free market, free to those that can afford it, expensive for
> those that can't.
> Charlock must have views on this?
>
> David
>
> Sent from my iPad
>
> On 17 May 2016, at 12:55 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> wrote:
>
> Yes.  Another point about the “paywall.”  I understand that publishers
> have to make money to stay publishing, but I don’t understand their greed
> to gouge the public.  Many a time I’ve found an article I’d like to buy—but
> not if the publisher is charging $25+ to download.  I’ve worked in a
> publishing house and know how some editors think—charge whatever the market
> will bear, and if that’s 10x the value of the product, then so be it.  I’ll
> really against this “free-market” mentality.
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
>
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