[ilds] Kipling's Kim v. Forster's Passage

Richard Pine pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com
Thu Oct 6 00:16:10 PDT 2016


I have reached the point in life, in lying, in reading and writing when
"truth" has ceased to matter. Electing Trump (if it happens) will be a lie,
but it will also be a verifiable fact - i.e truth. Every day every one of
us tells lies, but they are societal lies, as in "Hello how are you?" "Fine
thanks. And you?" "Great". Not "Not so good, my wife just ran off with my
best friend and my son was jailed for selling cocaine". We obscure, fudge,
conceal, obfuscate so as to present an image.The best possible image that
society wants to see. The best possible story that the reader wants to read.
If I decline a dinner invitation on the grounds of too much work, when in
'truth' I just don't want to spend an evening with that person and their
guests, am I telling a lie? And if so, a white lie, a black lie or a grey
lie? And so what?  It was a necessary lie in order to protect myself
against boredom.
LD was in his personal life (if there was such a thing) a man incapable -
like all of us - of telling the truth. He was in search of himself and he
would tell any lies necessary, and push aside all unnecessary truths, to
get at that self. You say that PC may not be  'all lies' - so which bits
are not lies? And which bits that are 'truthful' are really truthful, or
just partially truthful? C'mon.
How can any truth-oriented person read MFOA, knowing that it is one
monstrous lie but a damn good story? A principled reader will refuse to
read it. And the Bible. And the Sermon on the Mount (both Jesus's and
Caradoc's, although Caradoc's was more truthful)
I share the LD view - that it just doesn't matter. And why do you call 'Le
cercle referme' an 'autobiographical poem'? What 'proof' have you that it
was intended as such? No, mere readerly, critical supposition. If I said
that, in calling it that, you were lying, you would, rightly, take offence.
Keats? He was a POET! but you excuse him because he was 'a bad historian' -
i.e., he can't be blamed because he didn't tell a lie, just he didn't get
the truth that historians would insist on. But if Durrell makes the same
mistake, deliberately, he is, apparently, to blame. A liar. Oh dear, you
must be a very virtuous person Bruce. And virtue is.....virtual truth, not
real truth. ha ha
RP

On Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 12:11 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
wrote:

> Richard, I think we’re back to discussing Durrell’s notion of “Truth.”
>  (Which differs from mine.)  So we have another kind of “le cercle
> refermé.”  You’re undoubtedly right that Durrell was chiefly a poet and a
> storyteller, but I have great trouble when he presents (disguises?) certain
> works as “fact” (e.g., *Prospero’s Cell* or his autobiographical poem,
> “Le cercle refermé”) and then proceeds to embellish and distort.  Was he
> aware of what he was doing?  Dunno.  If he was aware, isn’t that the
> definition of lying?  Does it matter?  Maybe not to many people but to me
> it does.  In Haag’s *City of Memory,* Yvette Cohen said (more than less)
> that Durrell couldn’t be trusted to report accurately.  At the Durrell
> Celebration in Alexandria (2007), Penelope Durrell Hope said her mother
> called *PC* “all lies.”  It surely wasn’t “all lies,” but I think a whole
> lot of fibbing was going on, presumably in the interest of telling a “good
> story.”  Yes, if Durrell knew there was no fortress at Kurseong but claimed
> there was, yes, I would object and wonder just what he was up to.  Keats
> can get “stout Cortez” wrong in “Chapman’s Homer,” but no one accuses him
> of lying.  Keats was simply a bad historian.  Durrell’s “errors,” if such,
> are something else again.
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Oct 5, 2016, at 12:05 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> As Thomas Wolfe says, “You can’t go home again.”
> Also, think of "the boy who left home will have to meet the man who
> returns"
> But I continue to argue that Kipling meant more to LD than Forster ever
> could, because Kipling's 'India' was felt, whereas Forster's 'India', like
> his 'Alexandria', was intuited. To rely on the latter is perilously close
> to prioritising theory over that which is theoritised - which is one of the
> great sins (alright, moral errors) of modern academe.
> Yes, Elephant's Back bends the truth - have you forgotten that LD was a) a
> poet and b) a storyteller? And what man can accurately recall childhood? If
> LD had written "Boom of the sunset gun / In the old fortress of Kurseong"
> would you object, because there IS no fortress at Kurseong?
> RP
>
> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 9:34 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> wrote:
>
>> I don’t disagree that India “meant” a lot to Durrell.  But I think we
>> need to distinguish between the dreamy glow of childhood experiences (à la
>> Wordsworth’s 1799 *Prelude*) and the deep reflections of a mature man (à
>> la Wordsworth’s “Intimations Ode”).  There’s a reason Durrell never
>> returned to India (or reluctantly returned to Egypt)—I would guess that he
>> didn’t want to disturb or destroy some cherished memories, which, after
>> all, is common to all us.  As Thomas Wolfe says, “You can’t go home again.”
>>  E. M. Forster’s India, in my opinion, is closer to the India of mature
>> Durrell, philosophic Durrell.  When Durrell talked about the India of his
>> childhood, as in his essay “From the Elephant’s Back” (1982), his
>> recollections are full of fabrications.  *That* India is, in part at
>> least, a Romantic dream.  Take the first lines of “Le circle refermé,” one
>> of Durrell’s last poems:  “Boom of the sunset gun / In the old fortress at
>> Benares.”  That very moving poem, which has the appearance of an
>> autobiographical summation of a life, begins in Benares, India.  If I’m not
>> mistaken, Durrell the child was *never* in Benares.  He was dreaming
>> that experience, and we all know how important dreams are to Durrell.
>>
>> Bruce
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> On Oct 5, 2016, at 9:36 AM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>
>> "Yes, Durrell identified with Kipling’s *Kim* as a model for his boyhood
>> experiences in India.  That’s Romanticism on a superficial level—that’s
>> postcard India."
>> Absolutely not! If it was a postcard, it was a postcard born inside his
>> head - a veritable smile in his mind's eye. It wasn't at all romantic, with
>> or without a capital 'R' and it wasn't in the slightest superficial. India
>> MEANT something to him at first-hand and it imbued his entire life and
>> life-vision. Read what he wrote about the lamas in his introduction to the
>> (first) biog of Alexandra David-Neel by the Foster couple.
>> RP
>>
>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 7:04 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
>> > wrote:
>>
>>> Yes, Durrell identified with Kipling’s *Kim* as a model for his boyhood
>>> experiences in India.  That’s Romanticism on a superficial level—that’s
>>> postcard India.  As Rick points out, Kipling also taught Durrell a lot
>>> about storytelling—and both are expert storytellers.  But I would argue
>>> that Forster’s *Passage to India* provided a more profound model for
>>> the Indian “metaphysics” Durrell later explored in his allegorical fiction.
>>>  (Forster’s *Alexandria* and *Pharos and Pharillon* also fit in here.)
>>>  This is the India Ravi Nambiar discusses.  Consider Forster’s opening to
>>> *Passage*—the Marabar Caves and whatever it is that happens inside
>>> them.  Durrell uses caves to similar effect in *The Dark Labyrinth* and
>>> the *Quintet*.  Those kinds of mysterious or mystical experiences
>>> permeate his work.
>>>
>>> Bruce
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 11:03 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> I think what continued to resonate with LD about "Kim" was the fact that
>>> like Kipling LD had been born there and as we know deeply resented 'losing'
>>> his Indian childhood; that Kim was, as LD supposed himself to be,
>>> Anglo-Irish; and that he had known something of Kim's early years - Walsh
>>> in Pied Piper of Lovers has a lot in common with Kim. On the other hand,
>>> Forster was a 'travel writer' in India and however much he empathised with
>>> Indians, he didn't have that background. See what LD says about Kim, quoted
>>> in my book "Mindscape" (readable online on the DLC website - pp. 43-46 and
>>> 123-126 especially).
>>> RP
>>>
>>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 1:29 AM, Bruce Redwine <
>>> bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Richard, you’ve mentioned Kipling’s *Kim* before in this context.
>>>> I’ll have to reread it in the way you suggest.  I must have missed
>>>> something, but I can imagine what Said probably said.  I wonder why Durrell
>>>> didn’t keep Forster’s *Passage to India* as a “bedside book.”  It
>>>> seems equally relevant.  Forster, by the way, didn’t like Durrell and his
>>>> brand of Romanticism and didn’t say nice things about him in private.
>>>> Durrell, on the other hand, was very gracious towards E. M.
>>>>
>>>> Bruce
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>> Rick Schoff on 10/5/2016:
>>>>
>>>
>>> I'm reading "Kim" for the first time as an adult. It's not hard to see
>>> the east/west contrast. I imagine LD loved the boisterous and colorful
>>> aspects of it (is this part and parcel of the "romanticism" Forster didn't
>>> like?). Also, I think, the idea of a "Great Game" as the armature and
>>> animator of a story impressed Durrell. I first read the Quartet for its
>>> overall lushness and the interactions and thoughts of the characters. But
>>> "Palestine" ruled over all the action, gave shape and defined the
>>> parameters of the story. In the Quintet it's the Templars and their rumored
>>> treasure. In addition to other aspects, I think "Kim" taught Durrell some
>>> key lessons about pure story-telling. Sure, "Kim" might be just a boy's
>>> adventure book (how it was first presented to me), but both elements are in
>>> there: good story-telling and depiction of different world views.
>>>
>>>
>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 6:29 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> Richard, you’ve mentioned Kipling’s *Kim* before in this context.  I’ll
>>> have to reread it in the way you suggest.  I must have missed something,
>>> but I can imagine what Said probably said.  I wonder why Durrell didn’t
>>> keep Forster’s *Passage to India* as a “bedside book.”  It seems
>>> equally relevant.  Forster, by the way, didn’t like Durrell and his brand
>>> of Romanticism and didn’t say nice things about him in private.  Durrell,
>>> on the other hand, was very gracious towards E. M.
>>>
>>> Bruce
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 2:29 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> To appreciate the east-west tension in LD - and particularly the Quintet
>>> - it's helpful to look at Kipling's *Kim* - which LD called his
>>> 'bedside book' - and to look also at the ways western critics have tried to
>>> engage with this tension - and then to look at the ways non-western critics
>>> like Said and Chaudhuri have read *Kim*.
>>> RP
>>>
>>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 12:19 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlin
>>> k.net> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Ravi,
>>>>
>>>> I like the contrast between Durrell’s *Constance* and Tennyson’s
>>>> “Ulysses”:  to yield v. not to yield.  I think you’re absolutely right in
>>>> this.  That’s the Indian metaphysics of Durrell’s philosophy, which is very
>>>> un-Western.  As to the rest of the *Quintet,* it has so many aspects
>>>> (and defects) that readers will be puzzling over these for years to come.
>>>> I don’t think, however, that Durrell himself was ever “happy.”  In this
>>>> regard, he was Odyssean, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
>>>>  What he advocated was not necessarily what he practiced.
>>>>
>>>> Bruce
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> On Sep 28, 2016, at 8:14 PM, Ravi Nambiar <cnncravi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>
>>>> Bruce
>>>> Thanks for your expert comments. You are hundred percent right.* The
>>>> Quintet* may/will get the fate of *The Revolt*. I don't speak
>>>> authoritatively at all. I am a humble admirer of Durrell. I just quoted
>>>> Durrell's own words (so that I can escape) only to show that he had not
>>>> anticipated a Quartet-type audience for his Quintet ("The book is
>>>> really written for learned people."); and, in spite of that, he
>>>> claimed this novel his best. My only contention is that it is too early to
>>>> write off this novel as a failure. Also, there are some fine parts which
>>>> our young scholars could/should pursue. Our negative (final) judgement
>>>> should not, I feel, discourage anyone from going into its by-lanes. For
>>>> example, I liked the contrast Durrell made to the concept of Victorian
>>>> heroism with a/the modern heroism: replacing the slogan, "to strive, to
>>>> seek, to find and not to yield" with the slogan, "to surrender, to yield,
>>>> to abdicate and receive" (*Constance* 269). I don't think substituting
>>>> the  heroism of Ulysses with that of a Yogi is any kind of philosophy or a
>>>> bad philosophy. Yoga is popular now. Durrell's concern was to make his
>>>> character seek happiness, inner happiness, a kind of"bliss-side up" life
>>>> (the first half of the novel was the war-ridden world). That is why I
>>>> called his novel "Eudaemonistic" novel, the type of novel making its theme
>>>> as a system of ethics that evaluates actions (heroism) in terms of
>>>> their capacity to produce happiness. The Quintet may be a failure,
>>>> but, it certainly gives some narrative clues to future writers. We have had
>>>> enough of realism, surrealism, magic realism, and so on. Why not try
>>>> metarealism also?
>>>> My apology to all those who disagree with me. Let us agree to disagree
>>>> for the sake of literature.
>>>> Best
>>>> Ravi
>>>>
>>>>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>>
>>>
>>>>
>>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 2:29 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>
>>>> To appreciate the east-west tension in LD - and particularly the
>>>> Quintet - it's helpful to look at Kipling's *Kim* - which LD called
>>>> his 'bedside book' - and to look also at the ways western critics have
>>>> tried to engage with this tension - and then to look at the ways
>>>> non-western critics like Said and Chaudhuri have read *Kim*.
>>>> RP
>>>>
>>>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 12:19 AM, Bruce Redwine <
>>>> bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Ravi,
>>>>>
>>>>> I like the contrast between Durrell’s *Constance* and Tennyson’s
>>>>> “Ulysses”:  to yield v. not to yield.  I think you’re absolutely right in
>>>>> this.  That’s the Indian metaphysics of Durrell’s philosophy, which is very
>>>>> un-Western.  As to the rest of the *Quintet,* it has so many aspects
>>>>> (and defects) that readers will be puzzling over these for years to come.
>>>>> I don’t think, however, that Durrell himself was ever “happy.”  In this
>>>>> regard, he was Odyssean, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
>>>>>  What he advocated was not necessarily what he practiced.
>>>>>
>>>>> Bruce
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> On Sep 28, 2016, at 8:14 PM, Ravi Nambiar <cnncravi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>> Bruce
>>>>> Thanks for your expert comments. You are hundred percent right.* The
>>>>> Quintet* may/will get the fate of *The Revolt*. I don't speak
>>>>> authoritatively at all. I am a humble admirer of Durrell. I just quoted
>>>>> Durrell's own words (so that I can escape) only to show that he had not
>>>>> anticipated a Quartet-type audience for his Quintet ("The book is
>>>>> really written for learned people."); and, in spite of that, he
>>>>> claimed this novel his best. My only contention is that it is too early to
>>>>> write off this novel as a failure. Also, there are some fine parts which
>>>>> our young scholars could/should pursue. Our negative (final) judgement
>>>>> should not, I feel, discourage anyone from going into its by-lanes. For
>>>>> example, I liked the contrast Durrell made to the concept of Victorian
>>>>> heroism with a/the modern heroism: replacing the slogan, "to strive, to
>>>>> seek, to find and not to yield" with the slogan, "to surrender, to yield,
>>>>> to abdicate and receive" (*Constance* 269). I don't think
>>>>> substituting the  heroism of Ulysses with that of a Yogi is any kind of
>>>>> philosophy or a bad philosophy. Yoga is popular now. Durrell's concern was
>>>>> to make his character seek happiness, inner happiness, a kind of"bliss-side
>>>>> up" life (the first half of the novel was the war-ridden world). That is
>>>>> why I called his novel "Eudaemonistic" novel, the type of novel making its
>>>>> theme as a system of ethics that evaluates actions (heroism) in terms
>>>>> of their capacity to produce happiness. The Quintet may be a failure,
>>>>> but, it certainly gives some narrative clues to future writers. We have had
>>>>> enough of realism, surrealism, magic realism, and so on. Why not try
>>>>> metarealism also?
>>>>> My apology to all those who disagree with me. Let us agree to disagree
>>>>> for the sake of literature.
>>>>> Best
>>>>> Ravi
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>>
>
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