[ilds] Evaluating the Quintet

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Mon Oct 3 14:12:03 PDT 2016

Hi Ken & Rick,

Quick jet lagged thoughts...  Michael Haag has done a lovely blog about 
a first time reader of the Quintet who wrote about the experience in 


Unlike most people, I came to read Durrell first through the Quintet and 
then moved backwards, reading the Quartet last among his major works.  I 
think that makes my approach to Durrell a bit different from those who 
read him chronologically -- I actually like the Quintet very much, 
particularly the verbal play and ongoing uncertainty, and this has 
always influence how I've read the Quartet (and all other works).  I 
also like Quinx and see a method in its textual recuperations from the 
notebooks that make up the previous volumes.  I suspect it's not as easy 
to enjoy Quinx if one has read everything else by Durrell first...

Perhaps like Rick, I tend to see "word beings" for Durrell's characters, 
which is quite unlike a romantic attachment to either Justine or Darley 
(or the wish to become like or to somehow inhabit such characters).  The 
play with languages stands out most to my eye, like the train that comes 
back, the phrases that recur, and the way one draft bleeds into or 
transforms into a new text.  In a sense, we're twigged to this from the 
outset by Slyie's black hair like "carbon paper" or characters who have 
"novel" feelings.  Ceci n'est pas une pipe.  The treachery of fiction, 

Paul Lorenz and Ravi Nambiar are particularly attached to the "Eastern" 
themes in the Quintet, as are many others, though I must admit I tend 
toward Ken's view while still respecting their hard work.  Just like the 
Gnosticism is a mash-up of Serge Hutin with news clippings about 
Slovenia in Durrell's notebooks (back to "word beings" or "verbal play" 
to my mind, not a serious worldview), I lean toward seeing the sexology, 
Hinduism, Yoga, and Buddhism more as play.  That doesn't mean play isn't 
serious or important, but rather that its limitations are those of play 
(as are its opportunities).


On 2016-10-03 11:44 AM, Kennedy Gammage wrote:
> Putting this supposition out there for discussion: that Jolan Chang was
> the inspiration for Sebastian / Affad in the Quintet – infamously for
> all the annoying tantric sex with-and-in Constance, which I consider
> somewhat of a drawback for the central book in the Quintet and a Booker
> Prize shortlist.
> Please feel free to disagree - Ken

More information about the ILDS mailing list