LAWRENCE DURRELL (1912 - 1990)
Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India. When he was ten, the family returned to England and he went to school in Canterbury and then took many jobs, ranging from racing driver to a post in the Jamaica police. He eventually persuaded his family to move to Corfu: these years were recorded by his brother Gerald in My Family and Other Animals (1956)—it was like living Ô in one of the more flamboyant and comic operas,’ he notes. During the 1930s he lived in Bohemian Paris and was friend and collaborator of Henry Miller. Later he spent much of his time as a journalist, teacher and diplomat in the Middle East.
He began writing early and published an unsuccessful first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers, in 1932. A second, Panic Spring (1937) appeared under a pseudonym. The third, The Black Book (1938) was a powerful erotic work published in Paris. He became noted as a poet and wrote travel books, plays, critical works and a children’s novel.
In 1957 he published Justine, the first volume of his ambitious The Alexandria Quartet, which mad him famous. Balthazar and Mountolive followed in 1958, Clea in 1960. Appearing at a time when realistic novels were the norm, this exotic and experimental work was both a critical and popular success. The setting is Egypt and particularly Alexandria, the period immediately before the Second World War. The plan was experimental and elaborate: four novels are interwoven and contain the same characters—couples who come together and part as love grows and then wanes.
Lawrence Durrell published many other novels, including Tunc (1968) and its sequel Nunquam (1970), and The Avignon Quintet, consisting of five novels published between 1974 and 1985. His last book, Caesar’s Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence was published the year he died, in 1990.