[ilds] Truth

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 6 17:42:55 PDT 2016

Richard, you’re right.  Let’s put this discussion in perspective.  Trump is a lying would-be politician who could do immense harm if elected, whereas Durrell was a poet and storyteller who lied on occasion and harmed no one (beyond close relations).  So there is no comparison in that sense.  I am bothered, however, by Durrell’s personal philosophy, so far as it advocates or justifies a kind of amorality and self-deception.  That aspect of his art and behavior seems to me false.  I am not prepared to say that I admire him “so long as he was a poet and told a good story.”  That is, no matter what his faults I support him.  This debate stretches far back.  Plato doesn’t like poets and wants to ban them from his ideal state.  That’s absurd.  But Plato believed in truth, and I can see his concerns.  So let’s leave it at that.  All errors are mine, as writers like to say.


> On Oct 6, 2016, at 1:41 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com> wrote:
> Let's stick with Trump. maybe, as President, he will follow Sarkozy's lead and be photographed allegedly reading the Alexandria Quartet. If so, his minders will have scored a major p r triumph and told one of the biggest lies of his career. It is a fact (let's not call it a 'truth') that Trump is within an ass's roar of the White House, even though he is a liar, a cheat, a racist, a philanderer, a sexist, a draft-dodger, and an appallingly bad businessman. Trump is a success because, altho he himself is a fiction, people believe him: he is capitalising on  Kurt Schumacher’s 1932 observation, that the best way to appeal to people’s anger is “ceaselessly mobilising human stupidity” That's an American truth. Canada isn't much better with Truth-dough in power. 
> It doesn't matter to me one little bit that LD, who was almost never in any degree powerful in that sense, told lies, bent the truth, borrowed unashamedly from others' work, misrepresented his personal circumstances, or was a sexist or philanderer SO LONG AS HE WAS A POET AND TOLD A GOOD STORY. Trump matters because his credible story appeals to American readership. Durrell doesn't matter because his story cannot hurt people.
> He was absolutely right when he said we live lives based on selected fictions. There are two kinds - those that are selected for us, and those that we ourselves select. Almost all his work involves these two types of fiction. And we respond to it because it tells us some 'truth' about ourselves. Truth, if you pursue it long and hard enough, proves itself to be a fiction.
> RP 
> On Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 11:13 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
> Truth matters.  And it particularly matters, as you point out, during an election year in the U.S. when Mr. Donald J. Trump, presidential candidate, is a habitual and egregious liar.  That fact may be a context for this discussion.  It is one thing, as John Keats does, to get a particular fact wrong, but quite another when Lawrence Durrell, who surely knows his facts, prefers to indulge in “selective fictions.”  White lies or societal niceties, which we all commit, are no excuse for misrepresentations of a higher order.  Durrell’s “selective fictions” licenses too much at times, particularly with reference to his art and self-portrayal.  Relativity does not justify dishonesty.  I call plagiarism an example of dishonesty—and there are many examples of that in Durrell’s oeuvre, which we have discussed over the years.
> Re “Le cercle refermé,” what would you call a last poem at the end of a poet’s last work, one that recapitulates the poet’s life and describes a final closing and “last goodbye?”  I’d call it a summa, autobiographical closure.  To suggest that it’s fiction undercuts the poem’s poignancy.  Granted that the first two lines are a problem—Durrell was never in Benares—but even that “fiction” serves as an example of Durrell’s life.  So, I smile at that bit of “selective fiction,” but I’ll give him that as he leaves the stage.  Othello does the same thing at the end of Shakespeare’s play.  His tale of the “base Indian” who “threw a pearl away” distorts and misrepresents what he did to Desdemona.  Her horrible death is draped in metaphors.  But the speech also illustrates a life full of dazzling diction.  Othello’s speech is a beautiful artifact, and Durrell’s final poem is equally beautiful, obscure and allusive, true to its maker.
> Bruce
>> On Oct 6, 2016, at 12:16 AM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com <mailto:pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>> wrote:
>> 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 <mailto: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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20161006/59dee6fd/attachment.html>

More information about the ILDS mailing list