Tag: alexandria quartet


Lawrence Durrell Centenary

It’s not just Charles Dickens who is having a party this year. So is Lawrence Durrell, author of my favourite series of novels, The Alexandria Quartet, a brilliant, metaphysical classic of the 1950s.

The books follow a group of individuals based in Alexandria, Egypt, up to and including the Second World War. That’s about as general as one can really get, as it covers a huge number of themes – sexual and political tension, a whole wealth of the region’s history, religion and philosophy – and Durrell wraps these in momentous descriptions of characters, place and time.

Each novel in the series undermines the previous one; minor characters suddenly become the focal point, giving the reader a completely different understanding on what went before. Every paragraph is breathtaking.

A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants…

These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean…

Brother Ass, the so-called act of living is really an act of the imagination. The world—which we always visualize as ‘the outside’ World—yields only to self-exploration! Faced by this cruel, yet necessary paradox, the poet finds himself growing gills and a tail, the better to swim against the currents of unenlightenment…

The Guardian recently featured a podcast on Durrell, which is well worth your time, and if you’ve not read The Alexandria Quartet, you really should. It is Durrell’s centenary after all.