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Saturday, May 23, 2020

The full Durrell


After having watched the full Durrell series on DVD, I ransacked my library for everything Durrell and found twelve books by Gerald Durrell - the youngest Durrell who wrote about everything zoic! - and two books by Lawrence Durrell, a little-known, "Stiff Upper Lip", and what is still his best book, "Prospero's Cell".


The Garden of the Gods, Gerald Durrell returns to his family island ... Corfu


I think I start with Lawrence's "Prospero's Cell", subtitled "A guide to the landscape and manners of the island of Corcyra." Corcyra, of course, is Corfu, and everyone who visits this enchanted island should've read it.

"Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins. All the way across Italy you find yourself in a landscape severely domesticated--each valley laid out after the architect's pattern, brilliantly lighted, human. But once you strike out from the flat and desolate Calabrian mainland toward the sea, you aware of a change in the heart of things: aware of the horizon beginning to stain at the rim of the world, aware of islands coming out of the darkness to meet you.

In the morning you wake to the taste of snow on the air, and climbing the companion ladder, suddenly enter the penumbra of shadow cast by the Albanian mountains--each wearing its cracked crown of snow--desolate and repudiating stone.

A peninisula nipped off while red hot and and allowed to cool into an antarctica of lava. You are aware not so much of a landscape coming to meet you invisibly over those blue miles of water as of a climate. You enter Greece as one might enter a dark crystal; the form of things becomes irregular, refracted. Mirages suddenly swallow islands, and wherever you look the trembling curtain of the atmosphere deceives.

Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder - the discovery of yourself."

Durrell’s choice of title - "Prospero’s Cell" - is partly explained in the book through the character of Count D. whose orange grove is the site of many memorable conversations in which Durrell participates. The count, who shares Durrell’s self-exiled status and resides in a sumptuous, rotting villa with dilapidated green shutters and filled with tarnished silver and antique Venetian portraits in moldering frames (perhaps a symbol for the literary tradition Durrell would help shatter with his multiple points of view narrative technique), contends that Shakespeare drew his model for his island from Corfu and may have even visited there.


To read a sample, click here


To support this theory, the count supplies several geographical, meteorological , topographical, historical and etymological arguments which might indeed be plausible enough. Claiming to have reached a certain detachment from the tempestuous passions and appetites of youth, he identifies himself with the figure of Prospero, after all he too is an exiled, widowed, aristocratic Italian in decline whose bedroom is full of well-thumbed philosophical tomes. Thus, in one sense, the title "Prospero’s Cell" celebrates Durrell’s friendship with this enigmatic character, one of the four persons to whom the book is dedicated, while corroborating his theory identifying Corfu as Prospero's isle.


Wonderful BBC Arts documentary from 1976, taking Lawrence Durrell back to Greece


I wish I had read this slender book before I visited the island twice in 1984 during my short eighteen months in Greece. Now I'll have to make do with the book's mere 130 pages.

If you are looking for a book with the ability to lift you out of your armchair and the winter doldrums and transport you to rugged white cliffs, sparkling azure seas and the tug of the sea breeze in your hair, then this is what you've been waiting for.

Googlemap Riverbend


To read any of the following online books, first create an account with archive.org - it's free! - then log in and "borrow" the book:
The World of Lawrence Durrell
Gerald Durrell : The Authorized Biography
Through the Dark Labyrinth : a biography of Lawrence Durrell
Selected essays on the humor of Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence Durrell - A Critical Study
My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell  ===>audiobook
A Zoo in My Luggage, by Gerald Durrell
Birds, Beasts and Relatives, by Gerald Durrell  ===>audiobook
Catch Me A Colobus, by Gerald Durrell
The Ark's Anniversary, by Gerald Durrell
Fauna and Family, by Gerald Durrell
The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell
Marrying Off Mother, by Gerald Durrell
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons, by Gerald Durrell
Two In The Bush, by Gerald Durrell
How to Shoot an Amateur Naturalist, by Gerald Durrell
Rosy is My Relative, by Gerald Durrell
The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure, by Gerald Durrell
Keeper, by Gerald Durrell
The Drunken Forest, by Gerald Durrell
Encounters with Animals, by Gerald Durrell
The Mockery Bird, by Gerald Durrell
The Overloaded Ark, by Gerald Durrell
Durrell in Russia
The Talking Parcel, by Gerald Durrell
Three Singles to Adventure, by Gerald Durrell
The Stationary Ark, by Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice, by Gerald Durrell
Menagerie Manor, by Gerald Durrell
The Bafut Beagles, by Gerald Durrell
The Picnic and Other Inimitable Stories, by Gerald Durrell
The Amateur Naturalist, by Gerald Durrell
Mountolive, by Lawrence Durrell
Island Zoo: the animals a famous collector couldn't part with
Balthazar, by Lawrence Durrell
Justine, by Lawrence Durrell  ===>movie
Clea, by Lawrence Durrell
Bitter Lemons, by Lawrence Durrell
The Dark Labyrinth, by Lawrence Durrell
Poetry, by Lawrence Durrell
The Tree of Idleness and other Poems, by Lawrence Durrell
Key to Modern Poetry, by Lawrence Durrell
Key to Modern British Poetry, by Lawrence Durrell
Whatever Happened to Margo? by Margaret Durrell