[ilds] Evaluating the Quintet

Kennedy Gammage gammage.kennedy at gmail.com
Wed Sep 28 12:05:52 PDT 2016

Agreeing with Bruce, my opinion is that the Avignon Quintet is overall very
strong, starting with the first 170 pages of _Monsieur or The Prince of
Darkness_ (1974).

Here’s a parallel I just thought of: the writer characters Blanford and
Sutcliffe, representing two sides of Durrell’s writerly persona (the pedant
and the drunk) are both wounded in their sex - by shrapnel and due to an
inverted marriage.

The beginning of Livia is a bit of a chore: the dialogue between the
writers, but around page 26 the flashback begins and it becomes quite
wonderful: “It was to be their last term at Oxford and Hilary had invited
them both to journey with him to Provence for the long vac.”

Each of the books has its iconic and memorable passages. There are a few
flaws of course.

Thanks - Ken

On Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 8:50 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>

> Richard, your explanation in *Mindscape* is a very informative discussion
> of the significance of the quincunx in the *Quintet.*   I also see a
> connection to Durrell’s Heraldic Universe and its advocacy of symbols and
> metaphors as the ultimate reality.  But I don’t know how successful this
> level of abstraction is in a work of fiction.
> Bruce
> On Sep 28, 2016, at 1:19 AM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> Bruce is entitled to say that we should question whether authors are the
> best judges of their work. And Ravi is not quite accurate in saying that LD
> considered the Quintet his 'best' book. His statement to me was quite
> clear: The Quartet was his most successful, Tunc/Nunquam his most important
> and the Quintet his most ambitious, But who was he to judge? I took him
> seriously at the time, because of the emphasis he placed on Tunc/Nunquam. I
> think LD knew that, for a variety and concatenation of reasons, the Quintet
> hadn't worked - it had been too ambitious. But we can, I think, see the
> 'plot' of the Quintet as both a narrative and a philosophical plot,
> marrying east and west, and it is this difficulty for the author which also
> creates problems for most 'western' minds.
> I'll quote from my 'Mindscape' (which you can read on the DLC website):
> ‘It will be my star-ypointed pyramid’ Durrell wrote twice in the quarry
> books for the *Quintet.* The triple significance of the expression (which
> founds its explicit way into the text of the *Quintet* 1300) is
> remarkable: not only does it suggest a metaphysical conceit, since it
> echoes the ‘star y-pointing pyramid’ which Milton ordained for
> Shakespeare’s bones, but also reminds us of the initial memory on which
> *Monsieur* is predicated (‘I was reliving the plot and counterplot of
> Shakespeare’s Sonnets in my own life. I had found the master-mistress of my
> passion’ - *Quintet* 10); it also replicates the pyramidal force-field of
> the quincunx as exemplified in architecture from both east and west,
> including the Taj Mahal and the temple of Bakheng, of which Durrell had
> made particular note.
> These geometric notions gave Durrell the mechanistic encouragement he
> required to ‘build’ a structure of five novels which would then form a
> force-field in a truly scientific sense. Thus the quincunxial idea both
> provided the basis for what he was trying to achieve in the east-west
> *entente* and the vehicle for one of the oldest of grail themes, that of
> a square of four trees with a fifth planted at its centre, beneath which
> the treasure lay.
> But the most significant fact is that Durrell believed that the ‘power of
> five’, when linked to his previously elucidated ‘rule of four’, would
> provide him with the means to negotiate the hitherto inaccessible, those
> ‘buried alive’. This would be the true meaning of *anagnorisis*, the
> moment of recognition between sisters; between lovers; between writers;
> between master and servant, creator and created; between the boy who left
> home and the man who returns. It would represent the point at which the man
> who, all his life, had told himself ‘*he must not remember*’, could
> regard himself in the mirror and, by submitting to memory, name himself. As
> Kundera observed, ‘the struggle of man against power is the struggle of
> memory against forgetting’.
> PS: I will be posting Bruce's, Rick';s and Ravi's messages on the COMMENTS
> page of the DLC website, and others which relate to our understanding and
> appreciation of LD's overall achievements as a writer with the ultimate
> ambition of the 'Tibetan novel'.
> RP
> ------------------------------
> On Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 12:52 AM, Bruce Redwine <
> bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Ravi, whom I respect, reports that Durrell apparently thought the
>> *Quintet* his best work.  I doubt the truth of his statement, but my
>> opinion is just that, an opinion.  I don’t, however, think that authors are
>> necessarily the best judge of their own art.  Hemingway thought that *Across
>> the River and into the Trees* (1950) was his best novel.  He even
>> compared it to some kind of literary “calculus,” whereas his previous
>> novels, presumably, were simply works of arithmetic.  Who believes that
>> nowadays?  Few if any, I think.  Durrell had his own philosophy (some mix
>> of Indian and Chinese thought), but his real genius as a writer of fiction
>> was a blend of storytelling and poetry.  I don’t see this in the
>> *Quintet* and think that Durrell went off the deep-end and got lost in
>> the netherworld of his own dark obsessions (the philosophy not
>> withstanding, which is of great interest, but which doesn’t save the whole
>> enterprise from its own self-destruction).
>> Bruce
>> On Sep 27, 2016, at 9:12 AM, Ravi Nambiar <cnncravi at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear Bruce
>> Your statement, "I think the success of the Quartet depends on
>> literature, whereas the lack of success of the Quintet depends on
>> philosophy", prompted me to collect some of Durrell's own words from the
>> interviews he gave:
>> "...this quintet is more important to me than the Alexandria Quartet".
>> "Avignon Quintet will be my last book, a present to France."
>> "The English don't very much like ideas and abstraction."
>> "The book is really written for learned people."
>> "The Avignon Quintet is an intellectual autobiography."
>> "Quartet, the hurly-burly and ripening of experience, quintet the
>> acceptance of reality."
>> "The Alexandria Quartet takes into account Western psychology, dualism,
>> and ambivalence."
>> "The Quintet accordingly offers a solution: the East as a way out for the
>> West. Things are so simple, nor so abstract."
>> It is agreed by almost all D scholars that to understand Durrell, one has
>> to read all of his work. The Quartet, the four, slides into the five, the
>> Quintet ("five baskets of experience"): unlike in the quartet, "...in
>> the quintet the last page is really the last page."
>> Regards
>> Ravi
> _______________________________________________
> ILDS mailing list
> ILDS at lists.uvic.ca
> https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20160928/0cf9c898/attachment.html>

More information about the ILDS mailing list