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Justine
by Lawrence Durrell
The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature:
Series of four novels by Lawrence Durrell. The lush and sensuous tetralogy, which consists of Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958), and Clea (1960), is set in Alexandria, Egypt, during the 1940s. Three of the books are written in the first person, Mountolive in the third. The first three volumes describe, from different viewpoints, a series of events in Alexandria before World War II; the fourth carries the story forward into the war years. The events of the narrative are mostly seen through the eyes of one L.G. Darley, who observes the interactions of his lovers, friends, and acquaintances in Alexandria. In Justine, Darley attempts to recover from and understand his recently ended affair with Justine Hosnani. Reviewing various papers and examining his memories, he reads the events of his recent past in romantic terms. Balthazar, named for Darley's friend, a doctor and mystic, reinterprets Darley's views from a philosophical and intellectual point of view. The third novel is a straightforward narrative of events, and Clea, volume four, reveals Darley healing, maturing, and becoming capable of loving Clea Montis, a painter and the woman for whom he was destined.

Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (1 of 131), Read 123 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 01:26 AM Ann, tomorrow I get to talk with my pals about this novel? Right? Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (2 of 131), Read 120 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 01:13 PM Yes, Steve, finally. :) This is going to be a good one, folks. Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (3 of 131), Read 118 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 01:59 PM Why is it, every time I read Justine or other volumes of the Quartet, it's winter in Alaska, making the experience of an emotional and literary visit to Alexandria indescribably painful on a personal level? Perhaps because it's always winter in Alaska? Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (4 of 131), Read 122 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 02:10 PM Dick: I'm thinking (hoping?) that Durrell's Alexandria is a state of mind. I know it never gets that hot, so to speak, in Alabama. Or maybe I'm just frequenting the wrong cabarets... {G} Jeez, but this guy can flat-out write. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (5 of 131), Read 124 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 02:41 PM Agree, Dale. This is not a book to race thru for plot. It's one to be savored, word for word. Ruth
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (6 of 131), Read 121 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 05:02 PM Probably something for another topic, but I'm always interested in reading other's metaphors for their reading experience. In this case Ruth used the old favorite "savor" to describe it. Personally, I think we need to expand our horizons. For example, I'm rolling in this one, waving all my limbs in the air, like a dog on a dead squirrel. A little cumbersome, but I think it conveys my enthusiasm. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (7 of 131), Read 123 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 05:11 PM Dick, your metaphor conveys to me how wonderful "Justine" is provided, of course, that one happens not to be a squirrel.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (8 of 131), Read 124 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 05:11 PM Perhaps our use of metaphors is tied to our psyches, Dick. And just goes to show why I'm visibly overweight and you're not. Ruth
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (9 of 131), Read 128 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 07:56 PM Dean: Particularly a dead squirrel. Ruth: "Visibly" is right. Thank God for Photo-Shop. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (10 of 131), Read 123 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 10:16 AM It isn't nirvana though. Parts if this Alexandria stink, as in flat out smell bad. Parts of the city are incredibly dangerous. The guy coming back to the car to find the corpse of his decapitated wife was interesting. The whole place is rife with plotting and intrigue. The whole place is thick with an atmosphere not entirely pleasant. There isn't one character here whose personality is not seriously compromised. I suppose one could make an argument otherwise about Nessim, but I think one would lose that one. It is this cast of very vivid characters that fascinates me. Pombal, Balthasar, Pursewarden, Scobie, Clea, etc. I ought to be repelled by most of them, but on balance I find them a pretty endearing bunch. Human jetsam and flotsam washed up in Alexandria. I would like to discuss some of these people, and I will try as soon as I can put together a little quiet time. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (11 of 131), Read 123 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 10:17 AM Gooooooood Mooooooorning, Durrell fans! Pick up those dead squirrels, clean off the dirty dishes, and let's get started! For a guy who couldn't hold on to either a job or a wife, Durrell could write like a son-of-a-gun, couldn't he? But, what's he saying in this Justine? And how does it relate his miserable personal life? And did his daughter kill herself because of the ridiculous name she was saddled with (Sappho Jane)? Just a few things that have cropped up for me on my latest amble down Durrell Lane. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (12 of 131), Read 119 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 11:31 AM I noticed that daughter, too, Dick. Sappho Jane is about as bad as a boy named Sue, isn't it? I mean, it is one thing to be enamored of the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in particular, but this carried the whole thing a little too far. Perhaps topped by Moon Unit and Dweezil Zappa though. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (13 of 131), Read 121 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 11:56 AM I hadn't realized Durrell's daughter had committed suicide. I have to wonder if Durrell is excusing himself somehow with his last line, "Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?" People in his world don't seem able to connect souls with those they love. Sad. At the time I read the last sentence, I thought, "Oh, that explains a lot about the lost souls in this book." Each was desperately reacting to the vacuous, uncertainty of life. Some, like Justine, were actively seeking answers. She drove me bonkers, though, with her "Oh, I'm such a lost soul, so I'm excused for all the hurt I create for those I love and who love me. After all, I'm on a QUEST for meaning." Were we supposed to like her, or just pity her? Others, like the narrator (does he have a name?) allowed themselves to drift aimlessly, led only by what felt right at the time. They were tugged through life by their emotions, no matter what their claims to the intellectual life were. I found Justine depressing and moody as all hell, which made it a difficult read for me. The language was exquisite, though, and I am left with many questions of Durrell's message. I was bothered by the inaction and helplessness of the characters. Perhaps Dale is right when he says Alexandria merely represents the overall futility of life for Durrell. The ONLY character I related to was Melissa, who, though she never stood a chance, showed the most integrity and engagement with life. It is significant that she is the only one who produces a lasting legacy. Her story is the one that will continue to be told through her child. None of the other characters did one single thing to make the lives of others better, or made the decision to rise above themselves for the good of others. Justine has some points to make about the nature of love, I think. Problem is, I'm not exactly sure what those points are, or if I agree with them. Ideas?
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (14 of 131), Read 123 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 12:06 PM I don't remember finding anyone in the whole Alexandria Quartet very sympathetic. The other books, which cover much of the same territory are Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea. We've already met two of them. But I think the most important 'character' in the whole AQ is the city of Alexandria itself. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (15 of 131), Read 113 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 04:27 PM Ruth- Is the city of Alexandria a character, or more of an indifferent god? It has presence, certainly, but is content to let its inhabitants stumble blindly.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (16 of 131), Read 118 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 09:47 PM I am within a few pages of the end of Justine and this is one book that held my interest to the point where I could not put it down. Much of the time when I read a book I get sort of satiated and want to read something else. Not with Justine. Yes, I have been in Alexandria but just for a couple of days between a trip to Cairo and the pyramids, one of these outings offered by the cruise lines. What I saw in Cairo and Alexandria turned me off. I found the setting, the houses, the people not too attractive. Went to some of the stores to buy souvenirs and engaged to my horror in the usual ritual with the owners that I have heard about. This bargaining turned me off though I understood the cultural underpinnings. To come back to Durrell. This man can write and I see him as an individual who is trying to look for the soul of women by means of eroticism. Eroticism in his book is not the way it is seen or practiced in the West, but Durrell uses it as a means of inquiry, a medium, such as an artist, a painter or poet uses to not only express himself but to search for the soul. These thoughts occured to me and I wonder if you people see it that way as well. Another strange thing for Western mind is the way these people look at women. They are not seen as persons in their own right. They are being sexually or emotionally used or exercise their power to gain status by their beauty or mystery. I really thing that Durrell's writing is unique and different from anything that I have read before. I also see him as a kind person and only have liking and sympathy for him. I have not been able to conceptualize Justine but it has occurred to me that she is also searching for her soul, the substance of herself that truly counts. So they both are searching so far. Perhaps there are answers in the other books of the quartet. Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (17 of 131), Read 120 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 09:56 PM Interesting note about eroticism, Ernie. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes sense. As far as East/West cultural differences in regard to women, though, weren't most of the principal men in the book (other than Nessim)Western Europeans? If I remember correctly, the other 4 books don't continue this story. Rather, each title character has his/her own story, which interweaves with this to some extent. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (18 of 131), Read 117 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 07:51 AM Ernie, It's been years (more like decades) since I read Justine and I decided not to reread it (mainly because then I would be forced to read the whole quartet), but I just want to say how much I enjoyed your note. Sherry
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (19 of 131), Read 120 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 11:52 AM Edd- You wrote: Eroticism in his book is not the way it is seen or practiced in the West, but Durrell uses it as a means of inquiry, a medium, such as an artist, a painter or poet uses to not only express himself but to search for the soul. Interesting perspective on Justine, and it makes a lot of sense. There is definitely a lot of soul searching going on in Justine, but seeing women or men as an object does not seem to work for any of them. By doing that, they are providing an emotional buffer between them and others. However, Justine, Nessim, and the narrator (what is his name?) at least realize they are missing something, and are actively seeking, through interaction with others. Some, like Pursewarden (writer) are pure observers, content to stand back and watch others do the seeking. They are too frightened to jump into life themselves and use the distance as a buffer from life. I thought Durrell's comments on the nature of writing were fascinating. At one point, he says of Pursewarden, "...I suddenly thought to myself that here was a woman one might very well love:. Yet he did not take the risk of revisiting her, for the book was going well, and he recognized in the kindling of this sympathy a trick being played on him by the least intent part of his nature. He was writing about love at the time and did not wish to disturb the ideas he had formed on the subject." I'd be curious to hear from the authors on the board on this quote. :-) Other characters, like Georges Pombal, are very unhappy, but try to compensate by keeping up appearances. I think Scobey falls into this category, as well. Perhaps, for Durrell, Alexandria is a woman -a separate, vibrant entity, unknowable yet alluring, erotic and whimsical, intelligent, and oblivious to the wake she creates.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (20 of 131), Read 117 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 06:13 PM KAY I'm flattered, but actually it was Ernie who had the insight on Durrell. If my memory is still intact, wasn't this series of books a study in looking at a woman through different eyes. EDD
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (21 of 131), Read 117 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 07:38 PM Ernie- Sorry about that. Can I blame my confusion on an Alexandrian frame of mind?
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (22 of 131), Read 116 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 10:46 PM Kay, You don't need to apologize as our names are somewhat similar and who knows? Perhaps we do think alike or almost so. One of you made an interesting point. Namely that the main characters are actually Europeans. Durrell, had an English education (I read the summary by the Durrell Society). Some European have to escape the straight jackets of their own culture and feel much more comfortable in a culture which is most dissimilar - look at the American ex-patriates in France. These Americans may well get a big high of being something very special and superior to the natives and secondly could adopt their habits accepting the good and the bad of their culture. At the same time they are free in their pursuit of the soul - any old way - almost. Speaking of myself, I could never do it, it turns me off. I love the straight jackets provided by our good old American culture. Steve and Dick, I like the way you look at the author and the book. That Durrell lived a horrible life is tragic, but not unusual for great literary figures. That's why most of should thank god that we did not come close to literary eminence. Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (23 of 131), Read 118 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 10:48 PM Sherry, Thank you for your kind words. I assume you have moved away from Milwaukee by now. Pat and I are looking forward to seeing all of our bookish friends in September in that city. Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (24 of 131), Read 120 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 07:17 AM Yes, Ernie, I'm in Maryland now. I'll be seeing you in Milwaukee. Say Hi to Pat. Sherry
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (25 of 131), Read 119 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 04:05 PM Okay, you guys, I have made the tremendous sacrifice of giving up a day devoted to cleaning in favor of completing Justine. I am happy to report that the sacrifice was worth it. This isn't an easy read. The poetic language takes some work, coupled with the need to look up some words in either English or French dictionaries. However, the writing and the ideas Durrell expresses make the effort worthwhile. My conclusion is that this novel isn't so much about love as it is about pain. None of these characters seems to experience any real fun or even pleasure in their sexual pairings. At the end of the novel, Clea suggests to the nameless narrator that they join in a sexless union, based on friendship. After watching these people hurt themselves and each other, this idea seems to have a lot of merit. Kay, Melissa is too much a victim for me to feel more than pity. Nessim was more appealing because not only did he suffer almost to the point of insanity, but at the end he was willing to take some action to try to break the cycle of his self-destructive relationships. As for the nameless narrator, he himself acknowledges that he is too detached to fully give himself to anyone, thus making it difficult for me to give myself too much to him. There is always something of the observer in him - the writer looking for material. He functions as if he were a blind prisoner of fate, with no choice in his actions. Justine is described as amoral. Is he any less so? Or are they both victims of their obsessions? This brings me to Justine. Justine would be almost repellent if it weren't for that detail concerning a lost child, which inevitably elicits sympathy. Ernie, I was very interested in your comments about the treatment of the female characters in this book. Justine appeals to the narrator because "She talked like a man and I talked to her like a man."(p.25) Does Durrell equate intellectual discussion with being male? It sounds like it to me. Now, at the risk of sounding totally ignorant, I have some questions about the plot. *****Plot Spoiler to Follow********** Did Capodistria really rape Justine when she was a child, or was this some kind of fantasy she had dreamed up to cover a deeply buried trauma. Her first husband suggests it could have been a Freudian "screen memory" for incidents in her earlier youth(p. 78). Can anyone explain what "screen memory" means? Towards the end of the book, Clea reports that Justine told her she had a cousin in Alexandria, Virginia who was also named Justine and who had been raped as a child. Had the narrator's Justine somehow incorporated these details into her own psychic life as false memories? Well, I am obviously way over my head here. What do you think, Ernie? Did you ever meet anyone like Justine in your years of practice as a psychologist? Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (26 of 131), Read 124 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 04:38 PM Ann- Yes, Melissa was definitely a victim, but I saw her as someone who stood by her values. For example, when she repays the narrator's debt by sleeping with someone, rather than letting Justine/Nessim pay it off. I liked that about her. She did what she could. Part of that was jealousy, and part of it was trying to protect her lover from being further pulled into Justine's web. I also liked that she wrote cheerful letters, though the situation in the hospital must have been horrendous. She was trying to protect the man she loved. Third, Melissa was the only one that seemed to understand the nature of a real relationship, or love. I know she's a minor character, and very much a victim. She's definitely not an integral part of the book. However, she is one of two characters who showed any inkling of what life is really about. The other character that had her act together was Clea. She found meaning through art, and used that means to engage with life. She is also the one that seeks to connect at the end of the book. Though their relationship will be platonic, the new household will have warmth and meaning, because they will be actively seeking another's soul. They will join forces rather than focus only on their individual needs. For some reason, I could not relate to these characters. Their isolation and inability to form meaningful relationships aroused my empathy. Yet, I was incredibly distressed at their inability or unwillingness to learn or to show consideration for others. I cannot say I enjoyed this book, though I did appreciate the artistry with which it was written. I am searching for the lesson to be learned by reading it. I cannot get past my own rose colored glasses to glean much from the characters. The novel rang an emptiness to my ears.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (27 of 131), Read 127 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 05:28 PM Oooops, Ann, it has happened again. We have confused the narrator with Durrell. I suppose in the context of that paragraph you could take the position that the narrator is equating intellectual conversation with masculine conversation. . . .we were possessed only by a desire to communicate ideas and experiences which overstepped the range of thought normal to conversation among ordinary people. He says. I took this more to mean that they communicated with an understanding more common in male-to-male discussions in the narrator's experience. I could be wrong though. As to your questions about Justine's background, as I warned you a while ago, you are not expected to completely understand her story at the end of this book. Don't refer to yourself as sounding ignorant. Be a little more self-forgiving. What Arnauti refers to as "the check," that is, the reserve of an important portion of herself in these relationships with men, almost becomes itself a character in the novel. Does it ever drive these guys nuts! I love the character Joshua Samuel Scobie, the lovable pirate with a penchant for young boys. He is a great comic character and very vivid for me, but I won't include my observations about him here. Another note. Later. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (28 of 131), Read 130 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: S. Bohinka (bohinka@riconnect.com) Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001 06:57 PM I've been following the discussion with interest. I read about 6 pages and agree some with Ernie's note about the view of sexuality. It's not veiled, IMO, but fairly obvious from the very start. The style is readable but distant in what I'd call a "bad romance novel" kind of way. That longing, (self-pity?), distancing all read to me like the contrived romance plot, perhaps taken to a supposedly higher literary level. (Don't all jump on me, now! I read romance novels, though, and usually put down one with this kind of tone.) I'm not saying that there might not be some redeeming value to this book. The style, though, is more whiney than I expected. I'm deciding if I'm going to read it. I have a feeling that this might be just too much of a downer for me right now. Bo
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (29 of 131), Read 128 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 04:04 PM Ann, Kay, Your discussion and comments were much to the point and actually fascinating. I also wrote a note on Justine's molestation or rape (though I was quite ambivalent about doing it being afraid of offending some of you with my clinical experiences) In my work I saw a number of clients who had experiences of being sexually abused in their childhood. They turned out to be fixated on having to relive this event during any episode of intimacy with men, mainly husbands. They were terribly upset about not being able to shake the memory at this point. One male patient acted out a similar experience. I don't remember that any of them changed. Ann, do you have any idea what happened to my previous note on this subject. Did I accidentally wipe it out or is it being reviewed? Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (30 of 131), Read 94 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 06:15 PM Ernie- I appreciated Justine's frantic paralyzation with "the Check." My problem with her stemmed from her callous behavior toward Nessim. She knew he was in pain, as did the narrator, but neither made the effort to stop. That's where I parted emotional empathy for them. Stopping the affair was well within their control. I'm being too harsh and judgmental, I know. However, I think that since they knew they didn't love each other, and were in pain because they realized how much Nessim was hurting, they could have respected his feelings and stopped the affair. That, at least, would have given them something positive in their lives. I cannot figure what they learned about themselves at the end of the novel. Is Justine really content on the kibbutz or had her need for soul searching just stopped with the death of Capodistria? It seemed to me she had just given up somehow. The narrator also seems to have gained an acceptance of his life, yet still seems puzzled by Women and the Art of Soul Mating. His spirit still seems devoid of life and fullness. I think this book was as much about depression as anything - empty, lifeless, numb, oblivious to others, surrounded by an isolating darkness and too tired to fight.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (31 of 131), Read 107 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 12:12 AM The beginning of the book actually presents the final outcome of the story and the end describes what has taken place before completing the picture.. Justine and Nessim appear to have found themselves. Justine's search for excitement did not provide the answers nor did it provide happiness. But the simple life as member of a commune did change her for the better. She was described as looking like a simple working woman without her seductive charm. Nessim also changed in presenting the norm of his social status just paying attention to his financial empire. For some reason I did not pay much attention to Melisa or she did not come across as real as the other characters in the novel. I was bothered by the writer's abandonment of her in favor of Justine. The writer himself (what was his name - Durrell by any chance- seems to continue to live in his chronic depression and pain, yet he takes care of Melisa's child. As a clinical psychologist there was a very interesting episode that explains Justine's sexual problems. She mentioned that she was either seduced or raped when she was quite young and is now reliving this incident during intimacy with a lover. She is forced to recall the incident in her fantasies in order to reach excitement. I have quite frequently heard the almost identical story from a number of my clients. This is perhaps the major and often life long damage that these victims suffer i.e. they must re-live the incident no matter how much they love their present partners. Please note that Justine disappeared at the point the original attacker was found dead. Perhaps it was only at this point when she could "let go" and freed herself of the experience and then was able to live normally Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (32 of 131), Read 104 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 10:38 AM Thanks, Ernie, for your comments. It's interesting to know that Justine's behavior followed a rather common pattern. It adds to the authenticity of a character whom it is somewhat difficult to appreciate. Or are some of you drawn to Justine? I'd be interested in finding out. Steve, I think that the ambiguity about what really happened between Capodistria and Justine adds to the novel. You are right, of course, that I confused the comments of the unknown narrator-author with the real author. In any case, I think the comments about Justine being like a man reflect certain attitudes common to the society of that time rather than any unique attitudes of the author. Here are a couple of other statements referencing Justine's male qualities (p.20, Penguin edition): ...yet how touching, how pliantly feminine this most masculine and resourceful of women could be. She could not help but remind me of that race of terrific queens which left behind them the ammoniac smell of their incestuous loves to hover like a cloud over the Alexandrian subconscious. The giant man-eating cats like Arsinoe were her true siblings. or (p. 49) When I thought of Justine I thought of some great free-hand composition, a cartoon of a woman representing someone released from bondage in the male. There are some other references here. I assume the incestuous queens are the ancient Egyptian queens who married their brothers? I have never heard of Arsinoe. Her male qualities include not just her fondness for intellectual conversation, but also her strength and attitude towards sex. In the late 1930's, which is the setting of this novel, women who had numerous sexual partners were "promiscuous." Men were--what? Lucky? Justine was a sexual predator, who constantly cheated on her spouse. Surely this was a reversal of the usual sex roles. Bo, this isn't the kind of novel that will make the reader feel good, but those who like Durrell's style will appreciate the carefully crafted writing and thought provoking ideas. Here are a couple of examples of the writing which I particularly liked: "There are only three things to be done with a woman," said Clea once. "You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature." I was experiencing a failure in all these domains of feeling. p.22 Guilt always hurries towards its complement, punishment: only there does its satisfaction lie." p.147-148 "As for the dead,(Justine) went on after a moment, "I have always thought that the dead think of us as dead. They have rejoined the living after this trifling excursion into quasi-life.(p.202) Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (33 of 131), Read 103 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 11:28 AM "I cannot say I enjoyed this book, though I did appreciate the artistry with which it was written. I am searching for the lesson to be learned by reading it. I cannot get past my own rose colored glasses to glean much from the characters. The novel rang an emptiness to my ears." Kay: I second your emotions and I hear that ringing as well... Thank God it was short, though. Dan
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (34 of 131), Read 104 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Anne Wilfong (anne.wilfong@gte.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 11:43 AM I have tried and tried to find a "flow" to this book, to stick with it and discover the joy of wonderful writing that is certainly there. But I cannot finish this right now. It's taking way too much effort, despite the quality of the pending discussion. So, after a valiant effort, I'm bowing out--for now. I'm a moody reader, and I'm in need of a life interrupter now. Of my last 4 attempts, I've put down all but one...sigh. Anne
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (35 of 131), Read 105 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 11:44 AM Oh, Dan, I'm so sorry you didn't like it. I love Durrell's writing. The story and the people did ring of emptiness, their own emotional and psychological emptiness. What a bunch of unattractive people. I sure wouldn't want to be caught on a guided tour of the pyramids with them. (But perhaps that's the lesson to be learned.) But to me, the voice and the writing is so evocative of a place and time, that I'm willing to let myself sink into it and just experience it. The writing somehow manages to be lush and spare at the same time. It really pulls me in. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (36 of 131), Read 105 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 12:39 PM Ruth: The writing was dynamic--but the remaining books in the quartet: Are they much the same? Empty, despicable characters delineated with a deft literary pen? Dan
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (37 of 131), Read 107 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 12:58 PM It's been about 20 years since I read these books, Dan, but I remember them as being very similar, although in each book we focus on a different character. Still, as I said before, the city of Alexandria, with all its sights, sounds, smells, all its exotica, the squalid quarter, the palaces, the sand, the sea, is to me the most important character of all. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (38 of 131), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 06:13 PM Ernie, Your note is still there. It was note 58 out of 78 when I last checked. This is certainly an interesting book from a psychological viewpoint isn't it? The description of Nessim losing his grip on his sanity is excellent. Dan, these aren't people I would want to be friends with, except for Nessim who interested me mightily. As Kay pointed out, Melissa also has her strong points. Still I can understand why you find it unpleasant to read about their failings. Ruth, the narrator seems to think that these people would not have been what they were if they had not lived in Alexandria. The city, which he calls the "capital of memory" is as much a character in the book as the people. The four main characters represent the multi-ethnic character of Alexandria. Melissa is a Greek, Justine is a Russian Jew, the narrator is Irish, and Nessim is a Coptic Egyptian. It's interesting that none of them are Moslems, surely the predominant religious group. Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (39 of 131), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 06:45 PM "these people would not have been what they were if they had not lived in Alexandria." Very good point, Ann. Alexandria seems far stronger than any of these poor souls. And the four characters representing the 4 ethnic groups, I hadn't thought of that, altho it seems perfectly obvious now you mention it. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (40 of 131), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 07:42 PM Phew! I am so relieved at the serious winnowing process in evidence here. When I nominated this book, I did not foresee the reaction I would have when it came right down to a discussion of it. I should have foreseen my own reaction based upon my experience some years ago with another of "my" books about which I have this deranged proprietary kind of feeling, Kazantzakis's Zorba the Greek. It is a strangely unpleasant feeling watching these books being pawed over by a crowd. So I bid you all a fond but delighted farewell. This is in a real way an intimate novel and does not work well with a crowd anyway. Ideally, by the time the 24th rolls around, I will be the only one left, muttering to myself about it. (Blessedly, it is a short month as well as a short book, eh Dan?) No, Ernie, and no, Ann, Justine's conduct is not understood with the usual, pat explanation of sexual abuse in her youth. You are thinking precisely what you are supposed to think right now though. Justine is as devious as they come and has simply hoodwinked you as well as the narrator for the time being. The Queen of Spades, as she comes to be referred to, is not what she appears to be, nor is any other character here--except the narrator. This is not to say that I don't believe Justine stands alone as a novel without the other three. It certainly does. Now where was I? Oh, yes. Joshua Samuel Scobie. The portrait of him commencing at around 199 strikes me as about as great a portrait of a comic character as I have run across except for Falstaff and some Evelyn Waugh characters perhaps. He has a profound fear of death in his old age, so much so that he is afraid to open his eyes in the morning. Then he is so elated that he has not died in his sleep that he overreacts. "Bounding from my bed like a lion," indeed! Here's a guy who had to give up scoutmastering for fear of doing twenty years, and where does he end up? Working on the Egyptian police vice squad! "It is said that after his appointment to the Vice Squad vice assumed such alarming proportions that it was found necessary to up-grade and transfer him. . ." The frosting on this cake is that after his death and much to Clea's delight, Scobie is transformed into El Yacoub, officially listed among the Coptic Church's saints, and his bathtub becomes a local shrine with reputed power to enhance fertility. But again I refer to something outside the scope of this one particular novel, and I promise not to do that often here. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (41 of 131), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 07:56 PM Now you've done it, Steve. You've hooked me into a reread of the rest of the Quartet. I do think I'll get more out of it this time. Certainly Justine didn't seem as confusing as it was to me the first time around. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (42 of 131), Read 93 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 11:11 PM Steve- Can you describe what pulls you to Durrell's work? What did you take from it? You've already mentioned the humor. There were several spots that drew a smile from me. One of my favorites was when Pombal gives his party, "The little consul-general is fawning and gesticulating over Pombal; his relief at my friend's departure is so great that he has worked himself up into a paroxysm of friendship and regret. The English consular group has the disconsolate air of a family of moulting turkeys." Ha! And then there was Capodistria, "...keeping us entertained with anecdotes of his fabulous mad father. ("His first act on going mad was to file a suit against his two sons acccusing them of wilful and persistent illegitimacy".) Another good one: "The cocktail-party - as the name itself indicates- was originally invented by dogs. They are simply bottom-sniffings raised to the rank of formal ceremonies."
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (43 of 131), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:42 AM Kay, The major aspect of most tragedies remains the participants inability to escape their suffering. Not only is fate playing a trick on them but they are unable to divorce themselves from participating in the most painful sort of suffering. This is tragedy. Clinically one calls some of these characteristics Folies a deux. Two perfectly normal people, when exposed to each other will cause each other pain and misery. It's common in marriages I have been told. However some people are born to suffer, hurting others and being hurt. This is what the book is, in part about. The other part pertains to its poetic beauty. I have rarely read greater and more beautiful writing. Ernie
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (44 of 131), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 09:39 AM These observations are great, Ernie! (By the way, I do not intend to convey the idea that I have all the answers concerning this novel. I most certainly do not.) Folies à deux, eh? I like that! Notice this by Freud at the beginning of the book: I am accustoming myself to the idea of regarding every sexual act as a process in which four persons are involved. We shall have a lot to discuss about that. Perhaps we have an extremely rare case here of folies à quatre. This quartet of madness involved the narrator, Justine, Nessim, and Melissa. Certainly, the very mordant wit skewering human frailty is one of the things that draws me to the book, Kay. The book is loaded with that. Ann has cited some examples of great turns of phrase. The two quotations concerning the cocktail party that you cite are examples. Regarding Pombal's cocktail parties, I also loved this: He had been having no small succcess lately with his carefully graduated cocktail-parties--into which he occasionally introduced guests from the humbler spheres of life like prostitution or the arts. The novel purports to be a study of love, and in this regard it demonstrates some perceptiveness, I think. When the wit is applied to this subject it can turn downright caustic: . . .and from here too the disgusted and dispirited faces of the long-married, tied to each other back to back, so to speak, like dogs unable to disengage after coupling. Or this: It is so much easier to address questions intended for one's husband to one's lover. Yet, there are extremely beautiful descriptions of the symptoms and phenomenon of falling in love. After their impromptu skinny-dip, Nessim and Melissa do not want to separate: Yet since they were reluctant to surrender each other to the life which awaited them they lagged, the car lagged, their silence lagged between endearments. That strikes me as a beautiful description of new lovers slowing down, stalling, because they don't want to part. So it is that kinda stuff, framed as it is in this vivid setting and atmosphere of intrigue, that draws me to the book. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (45 of 131), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 11:18 AM Oh, doesn't Durrell slip the knife in deftly. I think I love this book for the same reasons you do, Steve. The jewel-like, almost poetic descriptions, the wit, the exotic setting, and these people who almost seem as if they're being moved about like chess pieces, with little will of their own, or with that will sapped by the overpowering city of Alexandria. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (46 of 131), Read 98 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 11:47 AM Ernie- I hadn't considered Justine as a tragedy. That helps. Part of my confusion was coming from the disparity between my reaction to the characters and the philosophical aspects Durrell is presenting. Seeing Justine as a tragedy makes all the difference. It becomes easier to let the characters do their thing, and to focus on the message. Ruth- You were dead on when you used confused as your initial reaction to "Justine." That sums up my reaction nicely. I knew there was a message there. I just couldn't get to it. Steve- Thanks for sharing your reasons for your love of this novel. I like to understand what I'm missing. Next time, please don't wait so long to chime in. All- What did you make of the excerpts from Mouers, written by Justine's first husband? Durrell seems to be explaining the relationship between the nature of love and writing in much of the book, and uses Justine as an example. After declaring that Justine, "...was not looking for life but for some integrating revelation which would give it point," he goes on to make the accusation that "Women must attack writers - and from the moment she learned I was a writer she felt disposed to make herself interesting by dissecting me." He seems to be saying that Justine is using the author's skills of observation to help her sort through her life and make sense of it for her. She flirts with him for that reason, and sees intercourse as the price she has to pay. "Quick. Engorge-moi From desire to revulsion - let's get it over." Because the Albanian hears the "weariness and humility" she speaks with, he declares, ".....who could forbear to love her?" He sees her as "concealing a ravenous hunger for information, for power through self-knowledge, under a pretence of feeling." He understands that "... it was never in the lover that I really met her but in the writer. Here we clasped hands - in that amoral world of suspended judgements where curiosity and wonder seem greater than order - the syllogistic order imposed by the mind. This is where one waits in silence, holding one's breath, lest the pane should cloud over. I watched over her like this. I was mad about her." The narrator is also used by Justine to help her sort through her personal demons. He is also a writer. Pursewarden is one as well, and refuses to love in favor of writing about love. Her pain comes from her relationship with Nessim. He loves her for herself, and she responds to him with genuine feeling - hence her sense of guilt. But he is not able to distance himself with a writer's perspective in order to provide her with personal insight. I can see the intrigue and pull of a needy person like Justine, and am working to tame the buttons she pushes for me. I am having a hard time breaking from my reaction to what I see as emotional blackmail used by Justine. I know she's desperate to find meaning. I also know she's highly intelligent, and knows exactly what she's doing. As Steve wrote, Justine isn't what she seems, and is more intentionally manipulative than presented in this book. I'm still puzzled by her stay on the kibbutz. Is she content or has she given up?
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (47 of 131), Read 99 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:30 PM Kay, when I said I was confused the first time I read Justine, it wasn't at the moral or philosophical level that you are exploring. I was confused by the plot, by what the heck was going on. As for the moral/philosophical level, I'm interested in hearing what everyone has to say because I'm a long way from understanding what's going on under the surface. I seem able to accept Justine (the book) at the level of the amoral. It just is, and I find it fascinating. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (48 of 131), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:30 PM It's not a sin to be confused by a novel, Kay. Justine is not a book for someone who likes to walk away from their novels with a clear conception of the good guys and bad guys and a neatly wrapped lesson. Life itself is a bit bewildering, after all, and in my experience rarely falls neatly into place. But frankly, you're doing great. This latest note sets out some fine observations. I guess I disagree a bit with your earlier note about the detachment of all the characters, but that certainly does apply to Pursewarden. I suspect that if it's necessary for us to search for an authorial voice in this thing, we might better to look to him than to the narrator. I don't have much confidence in the narrator's perceptiveness other than his perceptiveness about the nature of his own feelings. It is his own feelings that compromise his perceptiveness generally. Not so with Pursewarden. On the other hand, I failed to find anything whiney about the narrator's tone. Clearly, he has lost his way in life and says so, but I did not pick up on any whine in this. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (49 of 131), Read 104 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:50 PM Yes, in fact, the narrator even seems resigned, if not down-right relieved by this turn of events. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (50 of 131), Read 104 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:54 PM Steve- No, I don't detect any whine in the narrator, either. In fact, I felt closer to him than most of the other characters. At least he was honest about his confusion and pain. He also sought out Melissa's child, unwanted by anyone else. That showed a depth of character. I worry about her own emotional well being, though. Her caretaker is still lost, I think. Hopefully, Clea will set things to right. I don't have to walk away from a novel with a clear idea of good guys and bad guys. But I do like to walk away with an understanding of what message the author is trying to send. I don't want lessons in the reading of Justine, which is what this is feeling like. I'm interested in discussion. Ruth- I didn't have a problem with the plot, just the message, which I'm still struggling with. Is there one, besides the effects of amorality and existential angst?
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (51 of 131), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 01:34 PM Great notes everyone. Kay, I don't think Durrell wrote to convey any kind of message, but one I think a reader could reasonably derive from the book is: passion + guilt = agony. You quoted one of my favorite phrases. The subject is writing: " in that amoral world of suspended judgements where curiosity and wonder seem greater than order." Steve, thanks a lot. Now I have to read the other 3 books in the quartet. I love stories with twists. An author can play with me all he likes, leading me down one path, only to finally let me know that he has succeeded in getting me totally lost. Do the other books have narrators? Do we ever learn the name of the narrator in Justine? Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (52 of 131), Read 100 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 01:40 PM I think it may be time now to bring up the Gnostic thing. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (53 of 131), Read 101 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 01:44 PM In regard to the folies à quatre, the narrator says (page 203,Penguin): The four of us were unrecognized complementaries of one another, inextricably bound together." Melissa is much like Nessim, and it is not at all surprising that they end up lovers. In fact, there is a general partner swapping between the four. Yes, Dick now would be a good time to discuss the gnostic thing. There is a god of goodness and his equal god of evil, right? And while we're at it can anyone tell me what hermetic philosophy is? Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (54 of 131), Read 109 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 02:05 PM In all fairness, Ann, that is a helluva reading project. Roughly the equivalent of War and Peace. Also in all fairness, it is well worth it though. As I recall, the narrator's name is Darley. "Passion + Guilt=Agony." Excellent! Goddamnit, Ann, you're all right! I don't care what these other folks have been saying about you in their e-mails to me. I agree whole-heartedly, Dick. I think it's time to bring up the Gnostic thing. Also, could you search out the hermetic philosophy home page for us? Notice down in Bea's Nile photo topic that it was these darned Coptics that chiselled the features off the faces of some Egyptian sculptures. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (55 of 131), Read 112 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 02:16 PM I'm not saying this is THE Hermetic Philosophy Homepage, but it's certainly in the top 10, plus you can dance to it. http://www.lightparty.com/Spirituality/Hermetic.html As you can see, the first principle of Hemetic Philosophy is that the "the Universe is mental." This, in turn, leads us to that conundrum of the ages: "When did the Universe get mental? I mean, I remember when it happened to my mother, but the Universe is a much harder question. Was the Universe always a little "mental"? For example, a lot of quantum physics might be explainable by the fact that the Universe is just a half a bubble off level, two bricks shy of a full hod, etc., and has been from jump street. I'll be back with more Gnostic Thing later, but in the mean time I'm sure you can see how this all relates to the characters and lives in Justine. It's not just the Universe that's "mental", and that's a fact. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (56 of 131), Read 121 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 02:22 PM At this point early on, I will give Hermetic Philosophy an 85. I don't understand all the lyrics, but it certainly does have a good dance beat. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (57 of 131), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 12:25 PM Steve, thank you for suggesting this book. I enjoyed it immensely. I think, however, that the setting for this book is not Alexandria. I place the setting inside the narrator’s mind at a time and place after he left Alexandria where simultaneously with the narrator, we see memories which are still painful for him but from which he is compelled to derive some sense. I felt that this was the first time since they occurred that he is able to bring the whole progression of events back to mind; events which have left him wounded and still hurting. In his efforts to make sense of these events, he interleaves into his memories excerpts of the book written by Justine’s first husband. A book which, I think, the narrator had read after Justine had left him. A book which he sought in the same way that he sought out her perfume. But whereas the perfume sweetened the pain, the book was an attempt to heal the wound through some sort of understanding. We are watching as the narrator begins to come to terms with his lingering ache, like a man who can no longer ignore a broken leg and must try to set it himself. To do this the narrator must have a clinical approach and we sense this in the distance which we feel for the characters. That distance is also the narrator’s, as it would increase his pain to get too close. But some pain is inevitable and to bring up these memories is an act of courage for him. We wince with him as he touches the frayed ends of his life in Alexandria but the narrator is not without the analgesics of humour and intellect. Thanks again, Steve, and, as I haven't read them yet, thank you also for giving thoughts about the rest of the books in the Quartet so skilfully as to give nothing away.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (58 of 131), Read 89 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 03:43 PM Just swinging the colum back to the left. Damn, you guys are good. I'm really enjoying the notes here. Ann, I particularly liked your singling out the quote, in that amoral world of suspended judgements where curiosity and wonder seem greater than order." That's exactly where I feel I am when I'm reading the AQ. Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna Pohlman
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (59 of 131), Read 87 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 09:35 PM I just finished this tonight. Read it very slowly to try to tease out what was really happening and still have missed a lot of it. How in the world did Durrell pack so many characters, plot details and philosophy into one small book? I was particularly interested in Durrell's early life when I read the internet site about him, that he and his parents were born in India and that he lived there until he was 11, then hated the restrictions of British life. I wonder if this novel could have been written by a British writer. There is so much that can't be fitted into any accepted cubbyholes of Western morality. Throughout, it has the feel of a dream, of shades of gray and a foggy sort of reality. Though no one is completely admirable (another dose of reality), I was struck by the relative power of the characters of a few of the women. Justine and Clea don't seem to be typical female literary characters for the 1950's. Clea was the character I "liked" the most, tempting me to read the book of the quartet with her name. But, what did you all think of her synopsis of Justine in the end: I mean, in Justine's case, having become cured of the mental aberrations brought about by her dreams, her fears, she has been deflated like a bag. For so long, the fantasy occupied the foreground of her life that now she is dispossessed of her entire stock-in-trade. This seems plausible, yet such a reduction, so simplistic. I was curious at this point as to Clea's reaction, that she was so repelled by Justine in her new incarnation and seemingly felt so superior. Barb
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (60 of 131), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 10:27 PM Clea and Justine were lovers once. In fact at this point, Justine is the only serious lover Clea had ever had. I don't think this experience was any less painful for Clea than it was for anyone else. Nonetheless, here I think she is just sincerely shocked at the changed Justine she encountered in Palestine. I confess that I more than "like" Clea. I have gotten a little hot for her. A wealthy, good looking, self-sufficient, artist woman. I'm also partial to her because she is a pal of Scobie and furnishes him with tobacco. Remember early in the book she shelters the narrator from the weather, sleeps with him, but asks that he not make love to her? This letter of hers to the narrator on his island at the end is great. On one page she is lecturing him on how love is never equally matched, generally explaining in an oblique way why it will never work for her. Than a page later she is inquiring of the narrator as to whether he might be interested in a friendship this side of love (the word and its conventions are odious to her) that is deeper than love, limitlessly deep, and yet wordless and idealess. You know, I think there is potential here for a great evolution in the relationship between Clea and the narrator. Notice the "Character-Squeeze" on Clea Montis in the Consequential Data: "still waters of pain" Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (61 of 131), Read 90 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 12:29 PM While we're on the ending, which Kay referred to long ago. . . . First, my favorite ending of a novel has long been the ending of The Great Gatsby wherein Nick talks about hills and the Dutch explorers who originally visited what became New York. That ending has been very affecting for me ever since I first read it. Second, I confess that I was a little shaken by some of the early notes posted here about this one. Contrary to appearances, I really am not 100% confident in my own taste, and judgments in that connection. I have gone off on many joy rides of exuberant enthusiasm over people, places, and things that later petered out in regret and some cost in one form or another. However, when I hit the ending of this one again this past weekend, my confidence was completely restored. That business of the narrator explaining why he is not going to respond to Clea's offer and that so much depends on our interpretation of silences around us is simply magnificent! I would go to the bank on that judgment, as well as my judgment on the entire work up to that point. I guess that henceforth I am going to have to say that the ending of The Great Gatsby is my favorite ending of an American novel. The irony is that this ending I'm talking about here is not really an ending at all. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (62 of 131), Read 88 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 01:52 PM Ah, Steve, you're such a tease. You mean, even Clea is not what she seems? Barb, I agree, she is my favorite character, although Scobie is the most entertaining. So Steve, what is the meaning of this "Consequential Data"? Was this part of the original novel, or is it something later editors added from Durrell's notes? Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (63 of 131), Read 95 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 02:14 PM I am not teasing. Really. I was hurt by that remark. I said that there are a lot of things I don't know about this novel. The entire significance of this Consequential Data is one. It looks to me as if he pulled some entries from his notes and put them in here as a sort of Appendix, as you say. I have no reason to believe this was not there from the get-go. I do think that his description in Consequential Data of the "n-dimentional" novel that Pursewarden envisioned is actually a description of precisely what Durrell himself was attempting in this Quartet. Here's another thing that mystifies me, which perhaps somebody can help me with. In that closing paragraph (or maybe the penultimate one) he speaks of the previous actions of the characters as having swirled around inanimate objects, or something like that. He lists Cohen's rings, Balthazar's watch key shaped like an ankh, Capodistria's eye patch, and a fingerstall. I remember enough of the three subsequent novels to realize that the first three items have great significance in those books, which indicates to me that he had those novels well in mind when he finished this one. (For example, Capodistria is not really dead.) I'll be damned if I know what he is talking about with this fingerstall. In fact, I had a helluva time figuring out what a fingerstall is. (It is some kind of finger protector. Maybe like a thimble. I wish one of our friends from the United Kingdom would help.) Moreover, I cannot find any previous mention of a fingerstall in this particular book at all. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (64 of 131), Read 88 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 02:42 PM Steve: Brewer's has this to say about 'finger-stall': A hutkin, a cover for a sore finger. The Germans call a thimble a finger-hut, where hut is evidently the word hut or huth (a tending, keeping, or guarding), from the verb huten (to keep watch over). Our hutkin is simply a little cap for guarding a sore finger. Stall is the Saxon stœl (a place), whence our stall, a place for horses. If that helps. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (65 of 131), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 02:44 PM Dick, that certainly does help. Thank you very much. I mean it. Apparently, another word for it in English is "cot." Now all I have to do is figure out who had a sore finger here. This is a very upsetting mystery for me right now--almost as upsetting a mystery as how I am going to pay my rent the beginning of next month after getting hooked into fooling around with this novel so much. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (66 of 131), Read 86 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 03:47 PM Steve and Friends: You're beginning to sway my initial opinion. Perhaps, a reading of the remaining quartet is almost a must if I am to come to terms with this novel. In a good sense, Justine cannot stand alone--it needs the other three works to bounce off of. And it is that very shuttling between the novels where the true art of this work can best be viewed and appreciated. Would you who read the entire quartet agree with this statement? Dan
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (67 of 131), Read 87 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Lynn Isvik (washualum@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 03:48 PM Steve, Does your copy have a section at the end called "Work Points"? The version I got from the university library is the full Alexandria Quartet in one volume and each one is followed by Work Points, which seem to be Durrell's comments about the relationships between the novels, although I really haven't had time to pay much attention to them yet. Lynn
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (68 of 131), Read 93 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 04:54 PM That's fascinating, Lynn. I don't know anything about that. I remember looking for Consequential Data at the end of the other novels and not finding any. "Working points," huh? You're all right, kid. Thanks. I will look into that. I really am interested. As for you, Daniel LeBeouf, have I ever been awaiting your reappearance with anticipation! (I'll get to your question in minute.) Way back when I considered nominating this, the primary thing I mulled over was whether the fact that this was the first in a quartet would ruin it for our purposes here. You know something? It was you that persuaded me it was okay. I said to myself, "No, LeBeouf will love this. An author with a poetic bent. Some strange religious philosophy, albeit touched upon only briefly, but enough to discuss. Some mysteries, fun to consider. Some sex. Vivid characters with a balance in strength of male and female. Exotic setting. LeBeouf will be pinging off the walls! LeBeouf will be like a balloon let loose!" The upshot is that while Ruthie was expressing her disappointment that you did not like it, I myself was stunned into utter silence, which, knowing me as you do now, is about as stunned as a person can get. So I have been thinking about this a good deal since, losing sleep in the process. At first I considered the possibility that you had not been kicked around by life enough yet to be ready for the book. I quickly discarded that theory. I suspect life has kicked you around plenty. Or rather, I refined the theory along the lines that life had not kicked you around enough in a certain way. I think you have been too lucky with women in your life. (I mean only for the purposes of connecting with this book.) Let me explain with an example. My favorite line in this novel--absolute favorite bar any among all these great lines--occurs in Book III, and it is very short. With regard to Nessim, we read that Justine had ceased being a woman for him and had become a situation. When I first read that sentence, I had to stand up and go hold onto the refrigerator while I caught my breath. (Then I opened the refrigerator.) I seriously doubt whether you even noticed it. And the reason I'm so goddamned upset with you is that I am so goddamned jealous of you. Now as for the question, read that description of the "n-dimensional novel" in Consequential Data. Hell, you've already wasted money on the book, haven't you? For the purpose of appreciating and understanding what is written there, yes, one would have to read the entire set. Still and having said that, I continue to contend that this one stands alone just fine. Bamboo splinters under my fingernails won't make me say anything different. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (69 of 131), Read 89 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 08:21 PM Mmm..I'm glad you made me look closer at the Consequential Data section, Steve. This description of the "n-dimensional novel" is arresting. I especially like that part about "...giving the impression of a book which is not travelling from a tomb but standing above time and turning slowly on its axis to comprehend the whole pattern." Actually, I'm not sure what he means by "travelling from a tomb", but the rest of it certainly describes what I sense from Justine and suspect from the description of the rest of the Quartet. I remembered that Justine and Clea had been lovers and Justine had been "...the one experience that marked me...." And, reading that last letter from her, I thought of all the times that I had been disappointed when meeting someone after a few years to find out that they had settled for what I felt to be a cliche (sorry, I always forget how you told me to do the accent). But, Clea initially seemed less judgmental, more open to other people's choices, than I have ever been. Your note to Dan about possibly not being knocked around enough by relationships rings a bell with me, Steve. It occurred to me earlier that the relationships in this novel seem less foreign to me than they do to some others here. This is all much more interesting through Durrell's eyes and in this exotic place. The characters are also more dynamic (I haven't ever known anyone like Scobie...). But, these interwoven relationships carried on by people who often can't resist the pull of being with that one different person despite their supposed commitment elsewhere seem very familiar to me. What is far from common is Durrell's artistry. Barb
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (70 of 131), Read 92 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 12:14 AM I'm about half through. I think this book is a prime example of the importance of style. Not that there isn't any substance here, but it's the style that elevates it to art, I think. Otherwise, we have a rather melodramatic set of characters, in an exotic locale, playing out sexual dramas. Almost like a Harlequin romance! I know, I'm vastly over-simplifying (and being a bit snarky about it), but without Durrell's language, would this still be Justine? Without Alexandria, would it work? Imagine this tale set in London, or New York. Without the style, and the locale, we might find Justine as ignoble and grating as many here found Kathy in House of Sand and Fog. By style, I don't mean grammar, spelling and sentence structure (which are more a courtesy to ones readers - reading something written without same is like conversing with someone who insists on holding their hand in front of their mouth and mumbling); I mean an appreciation of the value of words in and of themselves, of how they work together; of the history they hold from all the use to which each word has been put; and on and on. Durrell has this in spades. Is anyone here familiar with Jung and his archetypes? I have a feeling Durrell is playing about with his characters in that way, but don't know enough to draw any conclusions. Theresa
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (71 of 131), Read 94 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:06 AM Yes, Theresa, you are dead on about Jung's archetypes, which were closely related to gnosis and Gnosticism. The difference between "gnosis" and "Gnosticism" is summed up nicely in the following quote: "Gnosis is undoubtedly an experience based not in concepts and precepts, but in the sensibility of the heart. Gnosticism, on the other hand, is the world-view based on the experience of Gnosis. For this reason, in languages other than English, the word Gnosis is often used to denote both the experience and the world view" ( http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/gnintro.htm ) Note the reference to second and third century Alexandria towards the end of the above article. Perhaps the differences in gnosis of the readers of Justine accounts for our very different Gnostic world views, as Steve and Barb have pointed out. Another article I found said, "What made Jung's view radically different from those of his predecessors was simply this: he believed that Gnostic teachings and myths originated in the personal psychospiritual experience of the Gnostic sages. What originates in the psyche bears the imprint of the psyche. Hence the close affinity between Gnosticism and depth psychology. Jung's view may thus be called an interpolation, but not an appropriation. The need for definitions appears greater than ever in the light of such controversies." That would account for Jung's collective unconscious, wouldn't it? I found the following list of Gnosic tenets helpful in trying to sort through the characters in Justine: ( http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/whatisgnostic.htm ) The Gnostics posited an original spiritual unity that came to be split into a plurality. As a result of the precosmic division the universe was created. This was done by a leader possessing inferior spiritual powers and who often resembled the Old Testament Jehovah. A female emanation of God was involved in the cosmic creation (albeit in a much more positive role than the leader). In the cosmos, space and time have a malevolent character and may be personified as demonic beings separating man from God. For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code. (No idea what that is. Will check it out.) Mankind may be personified as Adam, who lies in the deep sleep of ignorance, his powers of spiritual self-awareness stupefied by materiality. Within each natural man is an "inner man," a fallen spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each man, we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction. What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge. Before the awakening, men undergo troubled dreams. Man does not attain the knowledge that awakens him from these dreams by cognition but through revelatory experience, and this knowledge is not information but a modification of the sensate being. The awakening (i.e., the salvation) of any individual is a cosmic event. Since the effort is to restore the wholeness and unity of the Godhead, active rebellion against the moral law of the Old Testament is enjoined upon every man.6 I'm still a little hazy as to what all this means for Justine, but I'm working on it.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (72 of 131), Read 97 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:12 AM The following summary, when considered with the text of Justine, clarifies much of the book for me: "Gnosticism embraces numerous general attitudes toward life: it encourages non-attachment and non-conformity to the world, a “being in the world, but not of the world”; a lack of egotism; and a respect for the freedom and dignity of other beings. Nonetheless, it appertains to the intuition and wisdom of every individual “Gnostic” to distill from these principles individual guidelines for their personal application." Justine's search for meaning depended on others doing the work for her. That's not what "gnosis" is about, if I'm reading the summary correctly. That is a huge difference between her and the narrator, I think. The narrator listened to the silence and moved forward. Justine was intimidated by the silence and stalled. I do not see her stay on the kibbutz as a cosmic event, indicating understanding.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (73 of 131), Read 74 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 08:24 AM Steve: I think you're absolutely correct--I have led a certain charmed life. I've watched my friends remain battered and bruised on the romance front, seeking yet never finding what I found with the minimum of effort--a lifelong soul-mate. When I met Suzanne, I knew right away my search (and I wasn't even searching) was over. And, as much as I hate to admit it, instead of truly sympathizing with my 30-something friends I've always secretly wondered: "What's wrong with these people? If you enjoy art, literature and conversation you do what I did--hang out in the library and one day your (Prince or Princess) will come. You don't hang out in seedy bars drinking and smoking and screwing." Your take has changed my whole approach to this novel--I've been looking at these characters as shallow idiots awash in the very strata of society best left alone. In effect, I was unable to make any sort of connection. The style--as noted earlier--was exceptional, the use of symbols and narrative techniques practically flawless--but the characters? I wondered why waste a book on these guys. Personally, I found the barber the most interesting character--loved the descriptions and the way he floated by the ear whispering gossip like a little devil. Now I understand. Part of the problem--and as a huge proponent of reader-response I kick myself for not seeing it earlier--was me all along. So, for art's sake, I will divorce my wife, have illicit liaisons with her bitter single friends, and then re-read Justine. I think I have an opening between grading lab reports on Saturday afternoon. Wish me luck. Dan
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (74 of 131), Read 76 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 10:08 AM You took my little rant in good humor, Dan, as I had hoped you would. Stay with Suzanne. I just wanted to incite you to talk about the book a little. Your reaction to the characters is perfectly legitimate. It appears to me that you are saying something quite similar to Theresa's view of the characters. I don't adamantly disagree with her view at all, and I am very interested in this Jungian thing. My own criticism would be of some of the plot contrivances he uses. One example. This business of Nessim handing over these diaries to the narrator to read, thus handily fixing him up with knowledge that he would not otherwise have, strikes me as very artificial. Kay, thank you for all your research. It's going to take me a little while to digest it though. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (75 of 131), Read 74 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 10:32 AM Dan'l: Like you, I've had good fortune in my personal relations and the failures and yearnings of the characters in Justine can seem distant from that perspective. But Durrell looks at more than mere sexual love in this book. The narrator's problem is not simply Melissa, but the passing of time and the changing of all relationships. As Kay notes, the Gnostic notion of man as a prisoner of the physical forces of the universe, tortured by them, and connected to 'goodness' only via intellect and imagination, is reflected here, too. Durrell's love story is multi-dimensional ('n-dimensional'?) and encompasses the loss of friends, of youth, of a time, of just a precious moment -- things each as wonderful in their way as any passionate affair, and like such an affair, inevitably disappearing into the abyss of time and memory, leaving the narrator (and us) to sort through the blanks and fill them in, wondering with a pain and bewilderment that is virtually indescribable, "How could this all just be gone?" I would suggest that no matter how happy any of us may be in a given relationship or situation, there will come a time, sooner or later, when we understand what Durrell is conveying on a visceral and not merely intellectual level: the lover will leave. The friend will die. The time of happiness, or perhaps just contentment, will be gone. And we will be left living, but also strangely dead, trying to reconcile how we can continue to walk the earth with such memories and such regret still living inside us. True, Durrell focuses much on eroticism and sexual love. But there is enough pain here to go around, no matter how well provided for we may be in that one department. Just my thoughts this morning after re-reading the last quarter of the novel again last night. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (76 of 131), Read 74 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 10:52 AM Isn't this what reading is all about in the first place? We take our own life experiences (gnosis) and filter our perception through them. The trick is to remain open to new information, so we can move forward to our "ultimate Cosmic experience." Ha! I think this is why I was so confused by Justine. My intellect was telling me that the writing was superb, and my personal experiences were telling me these characters , though searching hard, were missing the basics. I do empathize with their loneliness and search for meaning. We all face that. The catch is how we handle it. My real problem was with their seeming inability to see that what they were doing wasn't working. Instead of making the connection between their behavior and their unhappiness, they continued to seek answers and comfort from their secret club and its philosophy. It seemed to me that so much of their time was spent in their heads, and not in their hearts. Emotions are painful and scarey, and take courage to face up to. I often find myself taking refuge in logic and intellect when I feel threatened by something. My guess is, we all do, to some extent or another. It's a proven defense for me, and has gotten me through some very rough spots. But eventually, I had to deal with the feelings in order to move on. Most of the Justine characters seem unable or unwilling to face up to that. The narrator, Clea, and Melissa seem to have learned the most by the end of this book. The jury is still out on Justine, at least for me. My impatience with her rests on the fact that she takes no prisoners in her personal quest for understanding. I find that kind of knowledgeable manipulation for personal gain a symptom of an unkind heart.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (77 of 131), Read 76 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 10:59 AM An interesting aspect of this novel is that while it treats the condition of fairly young people (I can't recall if specific ages are assigned to the narrator or Cleta or Justine, but I have a distinct impression of youth), the author was definitely middle-aged -- 45 when Justine was published. And I think there is a distinctly middle-aged air of quietude, if not outright melancholy, that pervades this book that is in sharp psychological contrast to the temporal and psychological point of view we instinctively expect from the lead characters. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (78 of 131), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 11:07 AM Dick- "How could this all be gone" indeed. I don't have my book close at hand, but one passage springs to mind. The Narrator is looking at the bed where he and Melissa and he and Justine have spent many content hours. His pain at the loss of those experiences is visceral to me. So many times, I catch myself having the same kind of experience. "Oh, to have that one moment in time again - just for a while." The ache for times past hits so hard sometimes I almost stagger. Most of the time, I'm moving about daily life with enthusiasm and a sense of brightness. Then, I see someone who reminds me of my dad wandering the tools in Sears, and BAM! Or, I see a young mother with her toddlers, and BAM! I want to go back and have my own girls cuddly again. Thanks for making this "life is flitting in nature" comment. That accounts for the sense of poignancy I felt while reading a book where I didn't care for the characters. Talk about confused! I can't remember reading another novel where I've been so determined to seek meaning or purpose.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (79 of 131), Read 79 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 11:37 AM I have read this book and followed this thread with an uneasiness. These characters are so self absorbed and so completely intent on satisfying their own emotional needs that they would not recognize 'love' if it stepped out and tripped them. They seem to separate their little worlds from one another, allowing others in only as a means of filling some lack in their own lives. No wonder they seem to be filled with such an emptiness. To me, this is not a book on love in any form but a book on emotional greed. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (80 of 131), Read 76 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 11:55 AM Oh, Beej. An ally! I was beginning to think I was talking to myself. I reiterate: I do empathize with their existential angst, and their search for meaning and happiness. I draw the line at their behavior. Amorality does not work if one is seeking understanding and a sense of belonging. That said, I think their unwillingness to seek answers in their hearts and in regard to how they treat others is where a lot of that emptiness is coming from. They rely too heavily on intellect as a defense from emotions, and are thereby denying themselves progress towards a true "Cosmic revelation." To reach a full understanding of ourselves, philosophy and emotions must be integrated. For me, this is the main faulty emphasis in Gnosticism. It's quite ok to deny a perfect entity as having created the earth to explain pain and suffering and emptiness. But when they use that as an excuse for amoral behavior, and deny themselves the privilege of connecting with others emotionally as well as intellectually, they are denying themselves the very behaviors that give a sense of grounding and meaning. Focusing on intellect ain't all it's cracked up to be in Gnosticism, in my opinion.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (81 of 131), Read 81 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 12:02 PM I agree wholeheartedly, Kay..AMEN. And thus lies my queasiness with this book. Not once did I sense anybody as thinking.."What can I do to make this person I care about happier in life." If this was Durrell's aim with this book. to point out what can happen when emotions are divorced from intellect, then he was a raving success. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (82 of 131), Read 77 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 12:19 PM Beej- I'm not sure what Durrell's intentions were. I think it's possible he meant this as an intellectual exploration of life, which would be ok, except that I think he's missing the essentials. I appreciate the book. The characterizations are wonderfully drawn, and are quite vivid. I just haven't enjoyed it. In fact, it has been disturbing for me. The emptiness is what I cannot seem to handle. src="http://www.constantreader.com/sig/kappa_804.gif">
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (83 of 131), Read 77 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:10 PM (Only after my original post had I noticed that the thread had been shifted over and that more messages followed. I am re-posting here and apologize for the duplication.) Steve, thank you for suggesting this book. I enjoyed it immensely. I think, however, that the setting for this book is not Alexandria. I place the setting inside the narrator’s mind at a time and place after he left Alexandria where simultaneously with the narrator, we see memories which are still painful for him but from which he is compelled to derive some sense. I felt that this was the first time since they occurred that he is able to bring the whole progression of events back to mind; events which have left him wounded and still hurting. In his efforts to make sense of these events, he interleaves into his memories excerpts of the book written by Justine’s first husband. A book which, I think, the narrator had read after Justine had left him. A book which he sought in the same way that he sought out her perfume. But whereas the perfume sweetened the pain, the book was an attempt to heal the wound through some sort of understanding. We are watching as the narrator begins to come to terms with his lingering ache, like a man who can no longer ignore a broken leg and must try to set it himself. To do this the narrator must have a clinical approach and we sense this in the distance which we feel for the characters. That distance is also the narrator’s, as it would increase his pain to get too close. But some pain is inevitable and to bring up these memories is an act of courage for him. We wince with him as he touches the frayed ends of his life in Alexandria but the narrator is not without the analgesics of humour and intellect. Thanks again, Steve, and, as I haven't read them yet, thank you also for giving thoughts about the rest of the books in the Quartet so skilfully as to give nothing away. Dean
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (84 of 131), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:13 PM What several of you are describing as 'emptiness', I see as more as 'restraint'. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (85 of 131), Read 82 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:22 PM Steve, I don't know if it helps but "fingerstall" reminds me of the prostitute sitting in front of her stall with "a lap full of fingers." Kay, Mosaic law is the law of Moses described in the first five books of the Old Testament also called the Torah or Pentateuch. Thanks for the information about "Gnosis."
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (86 of 131), Read 80 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:26 PM Dick, please explain...I think I see what you mean..but... what was the motive for this restraint? Was it self serving? Or was it a means to avoid any emotional involvement? And in truth, cannot the emptiness and restraint coincide? I do not think one obliterates the other. I think the restraint is a means and the emptiness an effect. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (87 of 131), Read 77 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:26 PM Dean- Good point about the narrator. His pain is real, and is forcing him to face his heart. My question to him becomes, then, "So how will you change the relationships in your life to create a happier existence? What have you learned, and will you use that knowledge?" I'm curious as to whether Durrell answers that, or if he continues to report on life as a writer, not an individual. The narrator is basically a good guy, I think. He's just lost, which is no crime. The test will come in his future relationships, especially with the little girl.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (88 of 131), Read 78 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:31 PM From what I can tell, the job of a true Gnostic is to explore all avenues - intellectual and emotional - without restraint. Holding back is what creates the divide among people.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (89 of 131), Read 82 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:40 PM I mean 'restraint' in the sense that to fully appreciate a gourmet, 12-course meal, you cannot simply fill your plate with the three sweetest and most immediately satisfying dishes. Balance, nuance, expectation, anticipation, the sense that even the most minor flavor should be savored as fully as the strongest and that hunger is as much to be explored as satiety -- restraint in that sense. Obviously, based on this, I would suggest that a 'gourmet meal' might be a metaphor for living, although what I've described here may seem more apt to epicureanism than gnosticism (although, to be honest, I can't say I could distinguish the two in a dark alley). Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (90 of 131), Read 85 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:34 PM I guess what I'm seeing here is a use of the word restraint as a means to justify the uncaring, totally amoral and selfish behavior of these characters. If I am wrong, please explain to me what you meant. The only unselfish act I really saw was the narrator taking in Melissa's child, but I suspect this was done though guilt and not through any really sense of caring. I can admire restraint..however cold hearted using of others is intolerable to me. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (91 of 131), Read 86 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:43 PM Dean, Excellent observations. I especially liked what you said about the narrator needing to keep some kind of distance because of the pain these people and events had caused him. Towards the end of the book (p. 197, Penguin), the narrator is musing on his failures with people which he says have "been brought about by a gradually increasing detachment of spirit which, while it freed me to sympathize forbad me possession." Intriguingly enough, he says that his "detachment" is the part of him which Justine most wants to possess. We could see him as naturally cold, but that kind of man would never have visited Melissa's disgusting old lover in the hospital. I think you are correct that his detachment grew from the pain. Beej, you said you saw no characters in the book who ever asked themselves, "What can I do to make this person I care about happier in life." I think there was one--Nessim. Nessim allowed Justine to cuckhold him unmercifully and even had her followed to make sure she was safe. He built a wonderful summer place for her. Of course, even true love has its limits. Rereading passages reminds me that even when I don't agree with him, Durrell can phrase thoughts in a way that forces me come to a complete stop and see some truth in his assertions. For example, "a woman, a natural possessive" or "women are sexual robbers." Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (92 of 131), Read 84 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:51 PM Ann, Yes..Nessim...and yet doesn't Durrell almost paint him as pathetic for it? As if it were a fault instead of a virtue? Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (93 of 131), Read 79 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 01:59 PM Beej, I can see how some might call him "pathetic", but I see him as tortured. I like the end when Nessim appears to have turned into a stereotyped rich playboy. The narrator remarks, "He had not really changed inside. He had merely adopted a new mask." Ann
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (94 of 131), Read 77 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:19 PM I guess pathetic wasn't the right word..but it sort of hurt to think of him with that telescope aimed at the beach where the narrator and Justine had sex.. sorrowful is maybe a better word..pitiable..better..wait a minute..you used the right word, Ann...tortured... Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (95 of 131), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:26 PM Ann- Interesting note on detachment during the narration as a means of sorting through and distancing from pain. I have no problem with that as a coping mechanism when overwhelmed. My problem comes from the "restraint" during his affair with Justine. His restraint from recognizing Nessim's obvious pain and doing something to stop it. Nessim was a dear friend. The narrator was aware that his fling with Justine wasn't going anywhere. He knew Justine sure as heck wasn't getting anything sexual out of it. He knew that Justine was using him to sort through her own demons, with no intention of giving back, ever. And yet, he tosses aside his honor and friendship, just to get into bed with Justine. Oh yes. I forgot. They were communicating on a very deep intellectual level. And we know that can't be restrained. I know passion can overwhelm, and I know its nigh impossible to stop. However, I don't remember reading of any attempt to stop the affair. They talked about the pain they were causing, and fretted about it, but took no action. After all, Justine "needed" him. I'm not condemning the affair. I am condemning the lack of responsibility for the pain they knowingly cause to someone they both claim to love. Justine sure did need the writer. She gobbled people up and spat them out without much more than a casual, "Oh my - what pain I'm causing. Oh well - can't help it. I'm on a quest for my soul. I had great, great troubles as a child, and that excuses it all." I know she was desperate to find inner peace, and I do empathize with that kind situation. I can understand her desire to reach an understanding, and to resolve her demons, but not at the cost of someone whom I think she does love - Nessim. She was simply not capable of putting someone else first. She did not know how. Nessim was her best shot for reaching a peaceful soul, but she kept herself distant. That restraint is what caused much of her distress. Of course, the trick is realizing that. Beej- Is that where you're coming from? The amorality and unkindness is not excused just because someone is on a grand quest for a soul? It's an explanation, not an excuse? This novel has an incredible amount of things going on, and I find it interesting that we all seem to have such strong views on the characters. Again, I have to wonder at Durrell's purpose. Was he trying to say that we can learn to create meaning through our connections and considerations with others? Or, is he advocating staying analytical and distanced, in order to understand our true selves? That it is this vital intellectual understanding that is the purpose of life? Is this just a vehicle to advocate the Gnostic life? What, if anything, have the narrator and reader learned? I think the narrator is gaining perspective on what occurred, but I'm not sure he'd do things differently the next time around. However, the letter from Clea holds out hope on that score. Here's his chance for an asexual deep relationship with a woman. Hopefully, he will find someone to share both the mental and the physical sides. He also has the opportunity to bond with the child as she develops her own filtering gnosis.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (96 of 131), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:35 PM Kay, that is exactly where I am coming from..the restraint was so self serving it was sickening..where was the restraint in sleeping with your best friend's wife? I believe the restraint, Dick, caused emptiness for these people...because the ONLY restraint I saw for the most part was totally self serving..it fit each of their personal agendas without concern for anyone else involved. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (97 of 131), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:39 PM I think what distresses me about this novel is the emphasis on Alexandria as a kind of amoral, anything goes excuse. "Well, it's Alexandria, what can you expect?" seems to be the over riding message. Does Durrell think that's the basic nature of Man? That because the world was created from an imperfect being doing God's work, that we have this kind of chaos in our lives? That the imperfection has created a world in which we can't expect much more than a hopeful attempt at feeling grounded and connected? If so, that would explain why I cannot relate to the characters in this book.
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (98 of 131), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:44 PM Kay...that's what I mean by justification..Anybody can justify any choices in order to placate his or her conscience.Its a most selfish form of deception. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (99 of 131), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:47 PM Ann- Yes, Nessim is tortured, and really never learns to handle his true feelings. I like him, actually, and he doesn't use people for his own gain. Of course, he does commit murder, which actually didn't distress me as much as the others. Go figure. Maybe because he murdered for Justine's sake, as a means of revenge for her? A totally selfless murder. Ah, what a guy. And so I find myself in a kind of amoral interpretation, my own little Alexandria. Geesh - what a cast of characters and readers we have here! :-)
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (100 of 131), Read 83 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 02:50 PM I agree with you in certain respects, Kay. The narrator's behavior is pretty despicable, to use Dan's word, in several respects. In my warped view sleeping with a friend's wife is a step up on the betrayal scale from sleeping with a stranger's wife. But there's more. He also signs on with the secret police to spy on his friends! How Durrell can keep my sympathy for this guy in the face of this kind of conduct is some sort of artistry in itself. Dick, I thought your long note was masterful. I really enjoyed it. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (101 of 131), Read 79 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:04 PM No need to thank me, Dean. I never act out of any motive other than self-interest. I am in heaven here now in this discussion that includes notes like your very sensitive one. And contrary to appearances, I certainly have no problem abiding great differences of opinion about the book. Ann, I can't believe you quoted these two phrases about women in the manner you did. What's gotten into you? I think you should take your temperature right now. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (102 of 131), Read 81 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:21 PM Kay, But did Nessim murder to avenge Justine or did he murder because of the havoc Justine's childhood played on his marriage? Who was he avenging? Himself or Justine? And yet, he is likeable..what a dichotomy.. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (103 of 131), Read 79 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:28 PM Wait a minute, here..didn't Steve say Capodistria is not really dead, or am I dreaming? hmm...coupled with Justine's disappearance makes this not too pretty a picture.. I need to re-read through these posts and see if I dreamt that. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (104 of 131), Read 78 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:32 PM No, no, Beej. Forget that I said that. Your questions about Nessim's motives are perfectly legitimate right here in the context of this novel. I considered that he was avenging himself. You find a mention of a fingerstall in this book other than on the last page? It's bugging me. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (105 of 131), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:42 PM Thanks..I was having one helluva time finding that post of yours.. Well, I guess I'm driven on to do what I told myself I would not do...read the other three of the quartet... What is it that draws us to the despicable side of life? I have been trying to find more on this fingerstall business.. Beej
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (106 of 131), Read 69 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 03:44 PM That's easy. Despicableness is more fun to read about. Steve
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (107 of 131), Read 64 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 04:39 PM This is a multi-part message in MIME format. ------=_NextPart_000_0071_01C09129.2110A700 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Perhaps Nessim's murder of Capodistria (I'm going to pretend I don't =know he's still kickin') had a little revenge for what C. had supposedly =done to Justine, AND for what implications the Check had for his =marriage. Does Durrell mean for us to like these folks, or not? Emapthy is one =thing. Liking and respecting is quite another. And perhaps Durrell is =saying a Gnostic, "Whatever." Oh, geez. I really don't want to read the rest of the quartet, but I'm =intrigued. See what you all have done?! Kay ------=_NextPart_000_0071_01C09129.2110A700 Content-Type: text/html; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Perhaps Nessim's murder of =Capodistria (I'm going to pretend I don't know he's still kickin') had a little revenge =for what C. had supposedly done to Justine, AND for what implications the Check =had for his marriage. Does Durrell mean for us to like =these folks, or not? Emapthy is one thing. Liking and respecting =is quite another. And perhaps Durrell is saying a Gnostic, "Whatever." Oh, geez. I really don't =want to read the rest of the quartet, but I'm intrigued. See what you all have done?! Kay ------=_NextPart_000_0071_01C09129.2110A700--
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (108 of 131), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dean Denis (dddenis@iname.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 04:35 PM Kay, the way I see it, all of the rationalizations for the behaviour of the characters are all the narrator's. They are his attempt to deal with what happened. He is looking for a way to make it make sense for him. If you are unsure of the lesson perhaps there is some consolation in knowing that the narrator is searching also. Ann, that's a very good point about the narrator maintaining a distance while he was with Justine. I think that someone has already said that he was trying to emulate Pursewarden (a name that shouts "restraint") so that he could write better. In the end, the narrator realizes that he felt far more than even he had realized. Indeed, he had hidden his feelings from himself so that he could continue his relationships with his art, with Justine, with Melissa, with Nessim. I wonder if even he knew the order of importance?
Topic: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION: Justine by Lawrence Durrell (109 of 131), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, February 07, 2001 05:43 PM Dean- My suspicion is that the lesson I gleaned is not necessarily what Durrell intended. I'm curious as to his point, as I don't think he and I ascribe to the same philosophy.

 
Lawrence Durrell biography
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