The Alexandria Quartet
Lawrence Durrell

I read it first when I was a teenage boy. Left a deep mark on me. I’m reading it again, right now (that is, 25 years later). A few short passages are sometimes hard to penetrate, a trifle too metaphysical perhaps (particularly in the first volume entitled Justine), but it shouldn’t deter one from enjoying the lot. I read each sentence almost religiously, like one sucking the marrow from a juicy bone (a metaphor for life).

The story takes place in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 30s & 40s. It was then a cosmopolitan place where you spoke English, French, Arabic, Greek, Armenian simultaneously.
In a way, I feel like I was there: my father was born in Cairo during WWII. They lived in a priviledged societal cocoon and used to go down to Alexandria to enjoy the beach, while the war was literally raging in the nearby Lybian desert and further north in Europe.
My granddad brought back wonderful photo albums of that pre-Nasser Egypt, now long gone.

I found on the net a black and white photograph of Durrell, where he must have been in his 30s, no more than 40 at any rate. He is Darley, Purswarden & Arnauti. He is, to some extent, Balthazar and Nessim, Mountolive and Keats, Justine & Clea (all characters from his Quartet).

I discovered Cavafy through his writing.

Donald Sheridan

Lawrence Durrell
55 x 46 cm