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Sink or Skim

Michael Wood: ‘The Alexandria Quartet’

1 January 2009
Justine 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 203 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Balthazar 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 198 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Mountolive 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 263 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Clea 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 241 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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... At night,’ Roland Barthes once wrote, ‘the adjectives come back.’ It’s an eerie and sobering thought for writers who have been trying to clean up their act during the day, but for LawrenceDurrell as for Conrad adjectives don’t come back because they never left. If there is a mystery in Conrad it’s inscrutable, if there’s a tangle in Durrell it’s inextricable. And to stay with the ...

Plots

Stephen Bann

4 November 1982
The Prince buys the Manor 
by Elspeth Huxley.
Chatto, 216 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 7011 2651 5
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Faultline 
by Sheila Ortiz Taylor.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 7043 3900 5
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Scenes from Metropolitan Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 214 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 333 34203 8
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Constance, or Solitary Practices 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 394 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11757 0
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Mickelsson’s Ghosts 
by John Gardner.
Secker, 566 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 17251 8
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Beware of pity 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Phyllis Blewitt and Trevor Blewitt.
Cape, 354 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 02057 9
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... and the highroads of ambition. Among the English novelists who certainly did not take the path of Cooper rather than Joyce – who have continually raised the stakes of a purely artistic ambition – LawrenceDurrell holds a secure and honourable place. The dedication of Constance, or Solitary Practices to ‘Anais’ and ‘Henry’ (and indeed to ‘Joey’) indicates the cosmopolitan range of his ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes

18 February 1999
Richard Aldington and Lawrence​ of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence​ the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... to discover that such fictitious protagonists had their real-lite counterparts and to read of the true exploits of the pilot Douglas Bader, the spy-master Colonel Oreste Pinto and, of course, Lawrence of Arabia. Although I was reluctant to lose my heroes, I was not very much older before I gathered that there was something not quite right about T.E. Lawrence. Richard Aldington’s Lawrence of ...

Hormone Wars

A. Craig Copetas

23 April 1992
Crazy Cock 
by Henry Miller.
HarperCollins, 202 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 00 223943 4
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The Happiest Man Alive 
by Mary Dearborn.
HarperCollins, 368 pp., £18.50, July 1991, 0 00 215172 3
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... the ripe and cheesy things which have been lying in trunks for years. And what a powerpacked masthead! Managing editor: Alfred Perles; society editor: Anais Nin; sports editor: Charles Nordon (aka LawrenceDurrell); butter news editor: Walter Lowenfels; department of metaphysics and metapsychosis: Michael Fraenkel; fashion editor: Earl of Selvage (aka Henry Miller); and LawrenceDurrell and William ...

Naming of Parts

Patrick Parrinder

6 June 1985
Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 201 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 571 13444 0
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Helliconia Winter 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 285 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 224 01847 7
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Black Robe 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 256 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02329 2
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... names are bestowed, they may also be artfully concealed or withheld. The greatest of all novels begins with a hero of disputed name in a small village of La Mancha which the author refuses to name. LawrenceDurrell’s Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale concludes a sequence consisting of Monsieur or The Prince of Darkness, Livia or Buried Alive, Constance or Solitary Practices and Sebastian or Ruling Passions ...

Auld Lang Syne

Graham Hough

1 December 1983
Sebastian or Ruling Passions 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 202 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13445 9
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Woman Beware Woman 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 176 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02164 8
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Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Picador, 159 pp., £2.50, September 1983, 0 330 28074 0
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Blue Rise 
by Rebecca Hill.
Joseph, 296 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2372 7
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Here to get my baby out of jail 
by Louise Shivers.
Collins, 141 pp., £6.95, October 1983
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... 1974), Livia (1978), Constance (1982); and the ultimate destination, if there is to be one, is not yet visible. As it happened, I read them in the wrong order, but such is the vitality and attack of Durrell’s writing that it hardly mattered. Enter them anywhere and one is sucked into the stream. The series is called a ‘quincunx’, which suggests a fifth central element tying the whole pattern ...

The analyst is always right

Mark Ford: Tessimond and Spencer

17 November 2011
Collected Poems with Translations from Jacques Prévert 
by A.S.J. Tessimond.
Bloodaxe, 188 pp., £10.95, November 2010, 978 1 85224 857 4
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Complete Poetry, Translations and Selected Prose 
by Bernard Spencer.
Bloodaxe, 351 pp., £15, February 2011, 978 1 85224 891 8
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... Quietly off, and talk and talk for ever. Like Tessimond, Bernard Spencer published only three books in his lifetime: Aegean Islands and Other Poems in 1946; his collaborative translations, with LawrenceDurrell and Nanos Valaoritis, of the poetry of George Seferis in 1948; and a second volume of his own work, With Luck Lasting, in 1963. Bloodaxe has now published a complete edition of his poetry ...

Philip’s People

Anna Della Subin: Divine Prince Philip

7 May 2014
... Don’t​ talk about God – be it! Find the place, the formula … Ah, Larry, it isn’t that life is so short, it’s that it’s everlasting!’ Henry Miller wrote to LawrenceDurrell in 1959. The formula, if one were to look to history for clues, seems fairly simple. Be white, male, fairly imposing in stature, and in possession of a large ship and obedient crew. Mysteriously ...

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon

20 November 1980
Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... the ridge of a dark hill that’s just a mound far off. Three versts still to cover. Rain lords it over this beaten plain, and to the crusted boots cling brown stubborn clods of the native earth. Durrell’s new Collected poems adds fifty-odd pages to the 1968 edition and rearranges everything in chronological order by date of first publication. The new poems mark no departure from the familiar ...
18 December 1986
Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... mind, and a persuasive style, of course, you can stimulate them by going for a walk along the local beach or by taking minor trips or otherwise agreeable spells abroad: Henry James in France, D.H. Lawrence in New Mexico, LawrenceDurrell in Corfu, Michel Butor in Istanbul, Henry Miller in Greece. In December 1933, leaving his father in Simla and his mother in London, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off to ...

Sir Jim

Reyner Banham

22 May 1980
Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... Fella runs to some six hundred entries, of which three-quarters are people, from Aalto to Zuckermann, taking in Fidel Castro, Elizabeth David, Erskine Childers, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Robert Byron, LawrenceDurrell, Le Corbusier, Malcolm MacDonald, Tambimuttu ... and Donald Maclean. It is completely typical of the whole book that Maclean (whom he knew at school at Gresham’s) is characterised solely by ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn

19 October 1995
Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... them – and numerous cross-overs call the neat dualism into question. The German reception of ‘civilisation’ was vigorously positive; what the French celebrated was their ‘culture’. (As LawrenceDurrell satirised it: ‘All culture tends to corrupt; French culture tends to corrupt absolutely.’) In fairness, Elias was more original and more careful in what he wrote than many who followed ...

Oque?

John Bayley

30 November 1995
Byrne 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 150 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 0 09 179204 5
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... view, by laboriously making grace and sin the novelties of a kind of fiction which was no more than the old sentimental sensationalism brought up to date. And he detected a similar kind of fakery in LawrenceDurrell. There was nothing of the fake about Burgess, and no portentousness either. His best straight novels are his early ones, The Enemy in the Blanket and Beds in the East, which together with the ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... the ambitious undergraduate pass his/her examinations. Hamilton discusses the emergence of the idea of the English poetic career (in his chapter on Marvell, Milton and Dryden) without reference to Lawrence Lipking or Richard Helgerson. The Forster-Dickens chapter makes no mention of the alternative line of Dickens biography that descends through Thomas Wright and Katherine Longley to our contemporaries ...
22 August 1996
The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... free’; in contrast Mark Amory does not hesitate to quote the blasphemous lines which caused Mark Boxer to be sent down from Cambridge. Well-matched to their subjects are Patrick Leigh Fermor on LawrenceDurrell (‘He put new oxygen into the air; nothing seemed impossible’) and James Lees-Milne on the last of the Sitwell gang of three (who else but Sir Sacheverell has ever been made freeman of ...

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