[ilds] Conclusion to Tunc

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 14 12:09:04 PDT 2016


Ken has already gone onto Nunquam and provided a wrap-up.  So as James has suggested below, provocatively, Tunc should be wrapped up with some final commentary.  I’ll offer my opinion, which I see as complementary, not exclusionary.  It seems to me that critical interpretation tries to get below Durrell’s uses of tropes and symbols (the “firm,” the dactyl, Abel, various kinds of architecture, etc.) and discover what these devices actually meant for the author.  This is like dealing with allegory.  So, we have James’s question, “Freud or Marx?”

I’ll go with Freud over Marx but not in the sense James intends, that is, “sublimation of illicit desire or substitutive gratification.”  I would offer something more concrete than abstract, something closer to David Green’s analysis on 25 May 2016:  

The recording machine is Durrell himself.  Reality is often the elephant in the room.  [Cf. “Reality is what is most conspicuous by its absence,” 1.1/p. 14.]  I’ll bet, Ken, that Felix’s gothic pile is modeled on the Sommière house, the aptly named vampire house.  That place is really out of step with his earlier houses and, to me, signifies and symbolizes a major shift in the author’s moodscape; as Mediterranean sunlight gives way to the gothic darkness of the Avignon Quintet, so Tunc and Nunquam are novels of this transition.

Marxism, as embodied in Julian and Merlin (the eponymous founder of “the firm”), I don’t take seriously.  I see Julian as resulting from Durrell’s obsessions with Gnosticism—he’s Durrell’s version of the Gnostic Demiurge, the controlling deity of the material world who makes his appearance at the end of the novel, à la the Wizard of Oz, another magician like Malory’s Merlin.  (It would be interesting to know if Durrell saw the 1939 film.)

Instead, I’ll throw out some ideas on Freud and what he’s most famous for, namely, sex and the female sex.  And so we have the dyad, Iolanthe and Benedicta.   I think they’re intended to be taken as a pair.  Io is blonde, and Benedicta wears a wig covering her blonde hair.  Janus figures.  One good, the other bad; one promiscuous in a good way, the other just promiscuous.  They’re somewhat like Darley’s loves in the Justine, Melissa and Justine.  Such correspondences Durrell wants us to see, hence his “Author’s Note” at the end of Tunc, when he states that the “odd echo” to the Quartet and The Black Book is “intentional.”  We may also conclude that Felix is another Darley figure, or perhaps another Campion figure as in The Dark Labyrinth, who also exits by taking a “leap.”  If the novels are self-reflective (a novel of “self-discovery,” as someone says in The Black Book), then it seems to me legitimate to ask how biographical is Durrell’s fiction, far beyond the cliché that “writers write about what they know?”  So, I guess my Freudian question is—just what are Iolanthe and Benedicta screens for?  Dunno.  I’ll say this—Io’s deathbed scene is very moving and surely based on Claude-Marie’s death in a hospital in Geneva, one year before Tunc is published in 1968.

Bruce 




> On Jun 8, 2016, at 1:41 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Dear all,
> 
[…]
> 
> We've had a very productive discussion of /Tunc/ & /Nunquam/ that would be good to keep going.  So, great thanks to Sam for playing Lancelot in shining armor, though I must admit that I'm much more interested in expanding her ideas on Benedicta than sheltering in her shield...
> 
> We can move through /Revolt/ however we like, or to other texts, but I wonder how we have the final bit of narrative in /Tunc/.  From whom do we have this "report"?  How do we look to Benedicta's "admiration and pity" for Julian and his "impenetrable sadness" with the echo in the background and our unknown recorder?  How is her "sweet burning intensity" not so much her own feeling as Julian's tool or instrumentalization of her devotion to other (commercial) purposes?  Is the coercive law of capital's expansion (à la Luxemburg) in that final scene just a way for Durrell to reset it as a sublimation of illicit desire or substitutive gratification?  Is the shooting itself another one of those substitutions?
> 
> In other words, her "burning" love or hate (which we might call obversions) are passionate desires to connect -- distinct from those is pity, a more cruel emotion I'd suggest, reserved for those who just don't matter that much to us.  Julian pities.  How does this scene distinguish them?  And if Julian's pity lets him use Benedicta to advance the Firm, which motivation is winning out: concupiscence or capital?  Freud or Marx?
> 
> All best,
> James

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