Category Archives: Lawrence Durrell

Many sorts of failure

From among many sorts of failure each selects the one which least compromises his self-respect: which lets him down the lightest.

– Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet

The impossibility of writing

What matters is whether we want to lie or to tell the truth and write the truth, even though it never can be the truth and never is the truth.

– Thomas Berhard

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What is the writer’s struggle except a struggle to use a medium as precisely as possible, but knowing fully its basic imprecision? A hopeless task, but none the less rewarding for being hopeless.

– Lawrence Durrell

How else would we be growing?

‘At first’ writes Pursewarden ‘we seek to supplement the emptiness of our individuality through love, and for a brief moment enjoy the illusion of completeness. But it is only an illusion. For this strange creature, which we thought would join us to the body of the world, succeeds at last in separating us most thoroughly from it. Love joins and then divides. How else would we be growing?’
   How else indeed? But relieved to find myself once more partnerless I have already groped my way back to my dark corner where the empty chairs of the revellers stand like barren ears of corn.

– Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet

Intimations

‘You see, Justine, I believe that Gods are men and men Gods; they intrude on each other’s lives, trying to express themselves through each other — hence such apparent confusion in our human states of mind, our intimations of powers within or beyond us … And then (listen) I think that very few people realize that sex is a psychic and not a physical act. The clumsy coupling of human beings is simply a biological paraphrase of this truth — a primitive method of introducing minds to each other, engaging them. But most people are stuck in the physical aspect, unaware of the poetic rapport which it so clumsily tries to teach. That is why all your dull repetitions of the same mistake are simply like a boring great multiplication table, and will remain so until you get your head out of the paper bag and start to think responsibly.’

– Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet

Intimations

‘You see, Justine, I believe that Gods are men and men Gods; they intrude on each other’s lives, trying to express themselves through each other — hence such apparent confusion in our human states of mind, our intimations of powers within or beyond us … And then (listen) I think that very few people realize that sex is a psychic and not a physical act. The clumsy coupling of human beings is simply a biological paraphrase of this truth — a primitive method of introducing minds to each other, engaging them. But most people are stuck in the physical aspect, unaware of the poetic rapport which it so clumsily tries to teach. That is why all your dull repetitions of the same mistake are simply like a boring great multiplication table, and will remain so until you get your head out of the paper bag and start to think responsibly.’

– Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet

After the earthquake

I recall the furtive languor with which we dressed and silent as accomplices made our way down the gloomy staircase into the street. We did not dare to link arms, but our hands kept meeting involuntarily as we walked, as if they had not shaken of the spell of the afternoon and could not bear to be separated. We parted speechlessly too, in the little square with its dying trees burnt to the colour of toffee by the sun; parted with only one look – as if we wished to take up emplacements in each other’s mind forever.

It was as if the whole city had crashed about my ears; I walked about in it as aimlessly as survivors must walk about the streets of their native city after an earthquake, amazed to find how much that had been familiar was changed. I felt in some curious way deafened and remember nothing more except that much later I ran into Pursewarden and Pombal in a bar. And when Pombal said: ‘You are abstracted this evening. What is the matter?’ I felt like answering him in the words of the dying Amr: ‘I feel as if heaven lay close upon the earth and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle.’

– Lawrence Durrell, Alexandria Quartet