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NA306612 - DURRELL, L.: Clea (Abridged)

Lawrence Durrell


Clea is the fourth and last volume of Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet—although the work remains open-ended as if Durrell intended to return one day to follow the further fortunes of his characters and their love affairs. Indeed, he leaves pointers to what might happen in the future—but in Europe, and particularly Paris, not in Alexandria. Still, in Clea, Alexandria remains the deus loci. Darley returns to the city with the child of Nessim and Melissa, when Nessim asks him to bring her back, leaving the island where he has been writing about the events in the lives of his various friends, Balthazar, Nessim, Justine, Clea. He now claims he has abandoned this work, since reading Balthazar’s ‘Interlinear’, because it has made him feel that he did not really know the truth about people and events which had taken place in Alexandria, and in which he had been a participant.

Now it is wartime, and Alexandria seems the same, but everything has changed. Darley feels like an ancient inhabitant of the city, coming back from the other side of the grave to visit it. His friends remain much as they once had been, except that all of them have begun to turn new facets of themselves toward each other.

And now Darley and Clea fall in love. Mountolive and Liza are together. The letters, which Pursewarden has left to his sister after his suicide, serve to present what is surely Darley’s own view of the writer:

“I saw, in fact that we artists form one of those pathetic human chains which human beings form to pass buckets of water up to a fire, or to bring in a lifeboat. An uninterrupted chain of humans born to explore the inward richness of the solitary life on behalf of the unheeding, unforgiving community, manacled together by the same gift.

“I began to see too that the real ‘fiction’ lay neither in Arnauti’s pages nor in Pursewarden’s—nor even in my own. It was life itself that was a fiction—we were all saying it in our different ways, each understanding it according to his nature and gift. We were three writers, I now saw, confided to a mythical city from which we are to confirm our gifts. Arnauti, Pursewarden, Darley—like Past, Present and Future tense! And in my own life the three women who also arranged themselves as if to represent the moods of the great verb Love: Melissa, Justine and Clea. And realizing this I was suddenly afflicted by a great melancholy and despair in recognizing the completely limited nature of my powers. ”

“Clea, and Darley’s love for her, provides the dominant theme of this fourth volume, which begins to draw the threads together, without telling us that anything is complete or final. We see the books have been about love and fiction, about politics and psychology, about the magic of writing and art, and their deep limitations. Life itself is a fiction, and that fiction is just one perspective on a subject and a place filled with endless complexity. But the need and wish for art survives and after a terrible accident, first of all Clea and then Darley rediscover their talents and their abilities to express their art.

The whole cycle is renewed.

Notes by Elizabeth Bradbury


The music on this Cassette is taken from the Naxos and Marco Polo Catalogues

RAVEL Piano Concerto in G major

Francois-Joel Thiollier, piano; Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice) / Antoni Wit

DEBUSSY/RAVEL String Quartets

Kodaly Quartet


Dong-Suk Kang, violin/Pascal Devoyon, piano


James Barbagallo, piano

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