Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 15:57

Lawrence Durrell

Lawrence George Durrell (27 February 19127 November 1990) is considered a British novelist, poet, dramatist and travel writer, even though it was discovered posthumously that he never actually held British citizenship. His most famous work is the Alexandria Quartet. His brother was Gerald Durrell.


  • Everyone loathes his own country and countrymen if he is any sort of artist.
  • Brazil is bigger than Europe, wilder than Africa, and weirder than Baffin Land.
  • Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think.
  • It's only with great vulgarity that you can achieve real refinement, only out of bawdry that you can get tenderness.
    • Interview in Writers at Work, Second Series, ed. George Plimpton (1963)
In 1975 Durrell talked to an audience in California about the pre-WW2 days in Kalami on Corfu - "that house with its remoteness and the islands going down like soft gongs all the time into the amazing blue, and I shall never,never ever forget a youth spent there, discovered by accident. It was pure gold. But then of course ...youth does mean happiness, it does mean love, and that's something you can't get over." Amateurs in Eden, Joanna Hodgkin, p. 6 Virago 2011
  • I'm trying to die correctly, but it's very difficult, you know.
    • Interview in the Sunday Times, 1988
  • Old age is an insult. It's like being smacked.
    • Interview in the Sunday Times, 1988
  • It's unthinkable not to love — you'd have a severe nervous breakdown. Or you'd have to be Philip Larkin.
    • Interview in The Observer, 1990
  • The appalling thing is the degree of charity women are capable of. You see it all the time … love lavished on absolute fools. Love's a charity ward, you know.
    • Interview in The Observer, 1990

The Alexandria Quartet (1957–1960)Edit

Justine (1957)Edit

  • I think often, and never without a certain fear of Nessim's love for Justine. [-] It coloured his unhappiness with a kind of ecstasy [-] Yet one touch of humour would have saved him from such dreadful comprehensive suffering.
I return link by link along the iron chains of memory to the city which we inhabited so briefly together:the city which used us as its flora-precipitated in us conflicts which were hers and which we mistook for our own:beloved Aexandria! (Justine: Part One)
  • I remember Nessim once saying [-] that Alexandria was the great winepress of love;those who emerged from it were the sick men, the solitaries, the prophets-I mean all who have been deeply wounded in their sex.
  • Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold - the meaning of the pattern. For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfil it in its true potential—the imagination.
  • There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.
  • Guilt always hurries towards its complement, punishment; only there does its satisfaction lie.
  • A woman's best love letters are always written to the man she is betraying.
  • A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants.

Balthazar (1958)Edit

  • No one can go on being a rebel too long without turning into an autocrat.

Mountolive (1958)Edit

  • Lovers can find nothing to say to each other that has not been said and unsaid a thousand times over. Kisses were invented to translate such nothings into wounds (I)
  • the confluent smallpox - invented perhaps as the cruellest remedy for human vanity (II)
  • His profession [ diplomacy ] - offered him something like a long Jesuitical training in self-deception which enabled him to present an ever more highly polished surface to the world without deepening his human experience [-] for he lived surrounded by his ambitious and sycophantic fellows who taught him only how to excel in forms of address, and the elaborate kindnesses which, in pleasing, pave the way to advancement. (II)
  • Then he saw that she was blind, her face slightly upcast to her companion's in the manner of those whose expressions never fully attain their target - the eyes of another. (II)
  • here was Kenilworth now heading the new department concerned with Personnel [-] one of those blank administrative constructs which offered no openings into the world of policy. A dead end. [-] he would soon develop the negative powers of obstruction which always derive from a sense of failure. (IV)
  • In French the truth of passion stood up coldly and cruelly to the scrutiny of human experience. In his own curious phrase he [Pursewarden] had always qualified it as 'an unsniggerable language'. (VIII)
"- the Copts - the only branch of the Christian Church which was thoroughly integrated into the Orient! But then your good Bishop of Salisbury openly said he considered these oriental Christians as worse than infidels, and your Crusaders massacred them joyfully." (Mountolive)
  • Subconsciously he knew too, that the oriental woman is not a sensualist in the European sense; there is nothing mawkish in her constitution. Her true obsessions are power, politics and possessions - however much she might deny it. The sex ticks on in the mind, but its motions are warmed by the kinetic brutalities of money. (X)

Clea (1960)Edit

  • Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.
  • Perhaps our only sickness is to desire a truth which we cannot bear rather than to rest content with the fictions we manufacture out of each other.
  • Like all young men I set out to be a genius, but mercifully laughter intervened.

External linksEdit

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