[ilds] Nunquam

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Sat Jun 18 12:07:03 PDT 2016

Hoping it’s OK to quote these 12 lines, relating the poem to her _Revolt_


Not from some silent sea she rose
In her great wave of nacre
But from such a one—O sea
Scourged with iron cables!  O sea,
Boiling with salt froths to curds,
Carded like wool on the moon’s spindles,
Time-scarred, bitter, simmering prophet.
On some such night of storm and labour
Was hoisted trembling into our history—
Wide with panic the great eyes staring …
Of man’s own wish this speaking loveliness,
On man’s own wish this deathless petrifact.


Some thoughts: My first take registered that the sea was violent: scourged,
boiling, carded – without taking into account the transition between the
sea and Aphrodite. So I’m wondering about carded but now I think that line
7 “time-scarred” refers to the goddess. But then – why does Durrell say
“prophet” instead of “prophetess,” which one might expect from him.  And as
a goddess, why does she panic? Maybe by comparison it’s nasty and violent
here where we live!

Anyway, she seems to live on via our wishes, either as speaking loveliness
or as a deathless petrifact – maybe a Marine Venus hauled out of that
scourged and boiling sea.

In relation to the _Revolt_ my initial thought is that Tunc and Nunquam
deliberately ignore WWII while focusing on internal wars, violence and

Also, strange coincidence: when I Googled petrifact the example was from
Durrell: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/petrifact Unless I am mistaken the
scene they capture from Monsieur with the petrified forest is when they are
riding their horses to the beach after Macabru.

When Bruce said these books are hard to read – I agree, mainly because they
are a huge slog through extended pages-long character monologues! All the
characters are Durrell, and he has a lot to say.

I really think the Revolt is a 60s-era way-station between the Quartet and
the Quintet – both of which were focused on World War II.

Thanks very much – Ken

P.S. Aphrodite was the patron saint of prostitutes – so that bit fits

On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 10:15 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

> Ken, thanks for your reactions and précis of *Nunquam*.  I shall
> undoubtedly find these useful, once I get to reading the novel. Your
> introductory comment—“Finally finished re-reading *Revolt*”—indicates why
> these two novels have had limited success.  Namely, they’re hard to read.
> Are we the only two still in this discussion?
> Bruce
> On Jun 13, 2016, at 11:01 PM, Kennedy Gammage <gammage.kennedy at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> Finally finished re-reading the Revolt, and yes it really is a ‘science
> friction’ according to Felix, bringing Io back to life with Marchant’s
> miniaturized version of Abel (the language-based AI we met on the first
> page of Tunc) powering her new 1960s-era cyborg brain, while her world
> famous flesh is recreated in “rubber, leather, nylon, steel…glass, wool,
> jute and so on…gutta-percha, plastic…resins” by the best scientists of the
> Firm. What do you bet Durrell experienced audio-animatronic Mr. Lincoln
> when Miller took him to Disneyland in 1968!
> Here’s all they had to do to bring the dummy to life according to
> Marchant: “mocked out a musculature and a nervous system and allowed her to
> imitate human behavior, speech, gesture, mnemonic response,” since Felix’s
> formerly bulky Abel has been “reduced spectroscopically to the size of a
> pea.” Yet, even though Marchant implies that Julian has sexually assaulted
> Io’s waxworks after hours at Madame Tussaud’s (!) Durrell will keep up the
> fiction that the Firm is in parallel developing a male cyborg consort for
> her known as Adam, based on Rackstraw. We can all see where this is really
> headed.
> “Muscles powered by tiny photoelectric mnemonic cells.” Felix and Marchant
> do make it sound easy: “It might seem complicated, but in fact it’s only
> terribly detailed and intricate.” It’s Durrell’s strange science-frictional
> mashup of Mary Shelley and Norbert Wiener.
> Does the poem “Aphrodite” have anything to do with the _Revolt_? Just
> curious. Sadly, that poem is not included in any of my three Durrell
> collections…
> Mentioned in the first line of section three: Hitler! So by my count
> that’s only the second reference to WWII in the Revolt so far. What do you
> make of that? Durrell was immersed in the swingin’ 60s looking forward not
> back. The only ‘back’ for these characters are memories of their own past
> interactions, seasoned with shadowy histories of the Firm. That said –
> precisely zero reference to the contemporaneous Colonels’ coup. No outside
> wars in Tunc & Nunquam to distract from the chilly interiors.
> And then a third WWII reference: Toybrook, the skunkworks where they are
> building the dummy, looks like the Bergen-Belsen death camp. Felix and
> Marchant laugh heartily, though Durrell must have intended irony.
> I believe Julian is the first character to explicitly mention Aphrodite –
> in relation to Io. Though Felix describes his sleeping wife Benedicta’s
> breast as “the rise and fall so reassuring, like the spring swell of a
> marvelous free sea – a Greek sea.”  They are one of the triangles.
> OK – here’s Caradoc’s (I mean Durrell’s) opinion of brutalist
> architecture: “And now that the mob has too much pocket money we can expect
> nothing so much as a long age of bloodshed expressed by the concrete block.
> It is hard nowadays to distinguish a barracks from a prison or a block of
> dwellings…they belong to the same strain of thought – Mobego I call it
> after our old friend Sipple.” Very fair architectural criticism, but
> suspect economics: blaming the mob and its ego (thanks for clarifying that
> for me Bruce) for decisions the working class never made. If this so-called
> UK mob had ‘too much pocket money’ in 1968 it was probably due to the long
> privations from WWII finally easing! (Is this reference #4? Call it
> three-and-a-half.) But why ever ‘blame’ the mob for the sins of the ruling
> class? They certainly haven’t had too much pocket money for decades now, if
> ever by definition.
> I think there was some discussion of Hippo’s house, Naos, in relation to
> Egyptian shrines. It would be fun to reference some of these earlier
> threads from time to time on the listserv, both to avoid reinventing the
> wheel - but mainly to re-enjoy what Bill Godshalk had to say about it!
> “I thought vividly of the boy with his throat cut lying on his side in
> Sipple’s bed…I thought of Iolanthe who had committed the murder. It was
> unbelievable really. Unbelievable.” Yes, for the reader it really is
> totally unbelievable and unsupported, though it amply served its
> characteristically vivid & salacious purpose in the storyline.
> Did Julian mastermind this shocking incident with Adam and Rackstraw? Of
> course!
> I guess my central question was what Durrell wanted or expected us to
> believe about creating a true-to-life cyborg (not only that, but an exact
> replica of a world famous person who was also the main characters’ personal
> friend and lover!) – in 1968. I think we all understand what a challenge
> this would pose in 2016 – but maybe the immediate readers of the day
> thought anything was possible. Or – and I think this is more likely – maybe
> Durrell thought of it as a modern fairy tale. Something more akin to ‘the
> uncanny’ than to ‘sci-fric,’ more Pygmalion than _The Stepford Wives._
> Of course, some of his ideas are profoundly politically incorrect: like
> Baum talking religious leaders into endorsing the Firm’s paid recruitment
> program for onanistic skin care product donors. That might have earned
> Durrell a Fatwa if anyone had been paying attention back in the day.
> That’s all I’ve got cheers – now I can finally read some of the Stanislaw
> Lem books I picked up at Powell’s in Portland.
> - Ken
> P.S. How about doing one of these Virtual Book Club (VBC) sessions about
> _Prospero’s Cell_ when the time comes? I can pretty much guarantee it will
> be a lively discussion.
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