Monday, June 3, 2013

Review - Justine by Lawrence Durrell

"The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of Spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes . . . . "

Thus begins the novel Justine, the first in the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. This slender yet very powerful novel tells the story of Justine, her husband Nessim, their friend Melissa, and the unnamed narrator, all of whom live in the city of Alexandria, Egypt on the eve of WWII. In this novel, the reader is invited to an intimate look at the world of these four people - how they interact on their own and with each other as well as the desires that are woven between them through written words that give off an otherworldly air. Each emotion is treasured, each sigh of pleasure lovingly kept, and we the readers can not help but fall in love with those who expose so much of their flawed lives.

Rather than write more of the book itself, I wanted to type out some of the lines from the novel; let the words speak for themselves and may you too become entranced by Alexandria.

"In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. Its dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of seawater, licking its own wounds, sulking along the mouths of the delta, boiling upon those deserted beaches - empty, forever empty under the gulls: white scribble on the grey, munched by clouds. If there are ever sails here they die before the land shadows them. Wreckage washed up on the pediments of islands, the last crust, eroded by the weather, stuck in the blue maw of water . . . gone!"

"I thought to myself with relief, 'Good, I have really loved at last. That is something achieved;' and to this my alter ego added: 'Spare me the pangs of love requited with Justine'. This enigmatic polarity of feeling was something I found completely unexpected. If this was love then it was a variety of the plant which I have never seen before. ('Damn the word', said Justine once, 'I would like to spell it backwards as you say the Elizabethans did God. Call it evol and make it a part of "evolution" or "revolt". Never use that word to me.')"

"She turned now and started kissing me with such a hungry agony that my burnt shoulders began to throb until tears came into my eyes. 'Ah!' she said softly and sadly: 'You are crying. I wish I could. I have lost the knack'."

"Soon it will be evening and the clear night sky will be dusted thickly with summer stars. I shall be here, as always, smoking by the water. I have decided to leave Clea's last letter unanswered. I no longer wish to coerce anyone, to make promises, to think of life in terms of compacts, resolutions, covenants. It will be up to Clea to interpret my silence according to her own needs and desires, to come to me if she has need or not, as the case may be. Does not everything depend upon on our interpretation of the silence around us?"

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