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Book Title: The Alexandria Quartet|
ISBN 13: 9780571086092
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 984 KB
City - Country: No data
The author of the book: Lawrence Durrell
Edition: Faber and Faber
Date of issue: 1962
Loaded: 1558 times
Reader ratings: 4.6
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In terms of literary achievment, I have never ever ever read any book (or, technically, four books) that surpass The Alexandria Quartet. These are my favorite books. Period.
Durrell was a master of atmosphere and voice, and if you can make it through "Justine", narrated by the story's centerpiece, the exiled Irish school teacher, Darley, you will be greatly rewarded. Darley speaks in long-winded (though often lovely) prose and is clearly self-absorbed and emotionally near-sighted. But it's fascinating to be introduced to this world (Alexandria, Egypt on the eve of the second World War) and its cast of characters through the eyes of someone to whom those things are as foreign, captivating, and intimidating as they are to us. Rather than being the story of Darley, it is a story that is happening to him, and thus we have a perfect entry point.
The finest of the books are its two middle entries: Balthazar and Mountolive. Balthazar makes Justine worth reading, as it fills in all that we missed when we saw the world through Darley's naive eyes, allowing us to relive events from a very different, much darker vantage point. Reading Balthazar is a stirring, often crushing experience. We begin to identify with, and sympathize with, Darley as rest of the cast begins to become far more human than they looked through Darley's enchanted eyes.
Mountolive lets us know what all this means, on the grand scale, and suddenly the inevitable fate of all these flawed but admirable characters, the main players in their own tragedies, becomes clear. In Justine and Balthazar, Durrell paints his characters in broad strokes, especially the tragic, stoic Nassim; the complicated, fractured, and beautiful Justine; the elusive and emotionally veiled Clea; and the aristocratic soldier who finally opens himself to love, Mountolive. But by the time he hands the narrative reins over to David Mountolive, all of them, when presented on the global stage as opposed to through the selective lense of Alexandria, become small fish in a big pond, hopelessly human and hopelessly outmatched by fate. Their idyllic existence and isolationist idealism begins to show cracks as the War closes in on them.
Smartly, perhaps brilliantly, Durrell never lets us see his characters as the War ravages their lives and their ideals, perhaps because, in the context of these complicated characters, the war has already been fought. Ulitimately, bombs proved less destructive than their devastated innocence. But he does let us see his characters again in the aftermath and, finally, we get to see what they were really made of. The real story, it seems, isn't told until after its conclusion.
Durrell's Alexandria feels lived-in, as if you can hear the creeky sound of wind gently pushing boats tied to piers on the shore, prompting the stiff ropes tying them into place to stretch and breathe; as if you can see and smell the smoke rising from hookahs being smoked on the sidewalk cafes; as if you can feel the African wind blowing slightly in your hair and feel the stone on the beach walls. It's a wonderful, enchanting place with a dark, terrible cloud hanging over it and a menagerie of characters doing their best to ignore, or perhaps defy, that cloud.
Its revelations about war, human nature, love, betrayal, language, loyalty, friendship and, ultimately, survival of the spirit are unmatched anywhere in literature. Alexandria is a daunting and immersive read, but an absolutely essential one.
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Read information about the authorLawrence George Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for The Alexandria Quartet novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell’s prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose first novel, Monsieur (1974), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and whose third novel, Constance (1982), was nominated for the Booker Prize. He also penned the celebrated travel memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (1957), which won the Duff Cooper Prize. Durrell corresponded with author Henry Miller for forty-five years, and Miller influenced much of his early work, including a provocative and controversial novel, The Black Book (1938). Durrell died in France in 1990.
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