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A Smile in His Mind's Eye

A Smile in His Mind's Eye: A Study of the Early Works of Lawrence Durrell

Ray Morrison
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 530
  • Book Info
    A Smile in His Mind's Eye
    Book Description:

    Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), author ofThe Alexandra Quartet, was a writer with a foot in two worlds. His childhood in India and life in France and Greece provided him with an ability to absorb many traditions, all of which are evident in his work. Proficient in several forms of the written word - novels, poetry, travel writing, essays, drama - Durrell's best-known work fused Western notions of time and space with Eastern metaphysics.

    Very little has been written about Durrell's work before the Second World War. WithA Smile in His Mind's Eye, Ray Morrison seeks to redress this neglect. While French symbolism and the writings of Remy de Gourmont and Arthur Schopenhauer were important to the development of Durrell's writing, it was his embrace of Taoism that truly illustrated a shift from a Western, patriarchal consciousness to that of an Eastern, feminine-centred one and marked Durrell's coming into his own as a writer.

    In the years before Durrell's death, Morrison became a close acquaintance of the writer, givingA Smile in His Mind's Eyea personal element unseen in most other scholarly analyses. The work is essential to understanding one of the twentieth century's most original and eclectic minds.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7048-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations for Durrell’s Works
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter 1 The Taste of Elsewhere
    (pp. 3-10)

    Durrell’s novels and poetry written before the Second World War have received little critical attention. To a large extent it is as if his literary career in fiction began withThe Alexandria Quartet(1957-60) and his poetry withA Private Country(1943) andCities, Plains and People(1946). Some critics in the 1960s and even as late as the 1970s went so far as to claimThe Black Bookwas his first novel, primarily because they were The confusion about the placement ofThe Black Bookin Durrell’s early oeuvre arose from two sources. Lawrence Lucifer, the protagonist of this...

  6. Chapter 2 Quaint Fragments and Literary Horizons
    (pp. 11-67)

    According to Ezra Pound the most interesting Englishmen were the ones born in India (Reck,Ezra Pound,163). What he seemed to prize was the kind of personality laid down in certain writers as the result of the melding of two such different cultures. How much of his fascination with this type of character arose out of his study of Philostratus’sLife of Apollonius of Tyanais hard to say. Through Apollonius’s journey to India in the first century CE, Pound saw what he claimed was the first marriage of East and West (164), a concern important to him and...

  7. Chapter 3 Pied Piper of Lovers: The Boy from India and the Faun
    (pp. 68-147)

    In one of his letters, Lawrence Durrell writes amusingly of his birth in Jullundur in India on 27 February 1912 and his Anglo-Indian parentage in this manner: ‘I’m Irish mother English father. God-fearing, lusty, chapel-going Mutiny stock’ (DM50). He continues, ‘My grandma sat up on the veranda of her house with shot-gun across her knee waiting for the mutiny gang: but when they saw her face they went another way. Hence the family face’ (DM50). Wistfully he speculates, ‘I may have a touch of Indian in me, who knows?’ (DM 50). At the time of his birth, his family had...

  8. Chapter 4 Panic Spring: The Romance of the Will and Its Music
    (pp. 148-252)

    After the death of his father, Durrell found he had a private income of approximately £150 a year. When his mother, sister, and two brothers had returned to England from India, they found, just as Brenda did inPied Piper of Lovers,that they were ‘colonials’ and often ill at ease. With a decade of unhappiness in England behind him, Durrell and his wife turned their backs on the bohemian life of London and, early in 1935, set off for Corfu. A few weeks later, the rest of the Durrells - Mrs Durrell, Leslie, Margaret, and Gerald - were persuaded...

  9. Chapter 5 The Black Book: The Journey to the Land ‘Where God Is a Yellow Man’
    (pp. 253-358)

    In a letter early in their correspondence, Henry Miller asks Durrell about his upbringing. Poignantly, Durrell tells of his happy memories of India and the pain and anger he experienced at his uprooting on his return to England, where he claims that ‘mean, shabby little island up there’ tried to destroy ‘anything singular and unique’(DM51) in him. He continues about the list of schools he attended, the examinations failed, and how he always broke stable when he was unhappy. About his life after he quit school, he claims, ‘I hymned and whored in London - playing jazz in a...

  10. Chapter 6 Heraldic Side-Effects
    (pp. 359-436)

    Durrell’s early short works have rarely been mentioned by critics, but these efforts have a rightful place in the tapestry of his career. Through what often looks like exercises or humorous games, in these early pieces he hones his skill for what is to follow in his mature work. In 1933, Durrell privately publishedBromo Bombastesthrough the Caduceus Press, the printing venture which issuedQuaint Fragmentin 1931. Published under the name Gaffer Peeslake, this ‘brief extract from his compendium of lisson[sic]devices’ takes the form of a verse drama, becoming a delightfully outrageous send-up of George Bernard...

  11. Chapter 7 The Suchness of the Early Durrell
    (pp. 437-468)

    Durrell’s dismissal of much of his work before the Second World War poses problems, since he obscures certain influences important to his later works. Cut off from an Indian childhood of remembered happiness and at odds with much that he encountered in England, he reflects in these works a thinly disguised search by way of his protagonists for a spiritual replacement for his sense of alienation and loss. This last chapter takes a retrospective look at the way these early works lead to an acceptance of a cosmogony and an ontology influencing the major Works to follow. The resulting ‘suchness’...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 469-486)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 487-508)
  14. Index
    (pp. 509-529)