The Unreadable Book

  • Richard Pine


The train which, like the Ship of Fools, the Europa, bears its passengers towards the labyrinth (DL 13), reiterates the quest: we are told at the opening of Monsieur that ‘the southbound train from Paris was the one we had always taken from time immemorial’ (Quintet 5); at the inconclusive conclusions to the fourth volume, Sebastian, nearly twelve hundred pages later ‘the train flew on’ bearing them ‘onwards and downwards’ (Quintet 1177); the events of Quinx have yet to unfold. Therefore, to what end?


Human Personality Black Book Damage Exercise Fourth Volume Journey Outwards 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    ‘Quartilla’, ‘Priestess of Priapus’ is a character in Petronius’ Satyricon; other points on which Durrell may have consciously or subconsciously echoed Petronius include the atmosphere of the banquet chez Trimalchio which emerges both in the decadence of the Regina Hotel in The Black Book and the brothel scenes in Tunc (‘The Nube’) and the Quintet.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ‘Drexel’, like ‘Darley’, is suggestive of an anagrammatic or onomatopoeic corruption of ‘Durrell/Dixie’.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    While Durrell intended a deliberate reference to a French ‘Ripper’ in the translation of Quinx as Quinte: o version Land, it is merely Serendipitous that the protagonist, Sutcliffe, carries the same surname as the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’. Durrell had also employed the surname in a film treatment of his story ‘The Will-Power Man’.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    ‘Quatrefages’ as a surname was, Durrell maintained, a commonplace surname — ‘you find it almost everywhere — a street name — it’s like Jones really’, but also, and much more significantly, agreed that it means ‘crossroads’ (R. Green, ‘Lawrence Durrell — The Spirit of Winged Words’, Aegean Review [n. d.]). The point should be made that Durrell seldom employed more than rudimentary originality when giving names to characters: Toby might have been borrowed from either Tristram Shandy or Point Counter Point; Vasec (in The Black Book) from Tarr, Cade from Tristram Shandy; Nessim from Gerard de Nerval; while his stock of classical and biblical names (Livia, Joshua, Sam) indicates his reluctance to go far afield for new names for old characters who in themselves would not necessarily add to the received characterisation of fact or fiction: ‘I have never been interested in human beings as realities but as metaphors or ideograms — their poetic quiddity so to speak. They are like the obscenely funny notions which might pass through the mind of an idle god lying sunbathing’ (SIUC 42/19/8).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    CERLD inv. 1349 (notebook) contains a list originally dated ‘Feb 68’ with later additions, headed: Dead Within the space of a few years which includes the names of many friends, among them ‘Claude, Bernard Spencer, Roy Campbell … Richard Aldington … Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin [these were two of the later additions] … Seferis, Auden … My mother, John Gawsworth’ and subscribed: ‘for the Avignon book! Nogaret’s death map — “all this winter I have lived with suicide — Terrified” (diary of Piers)’.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’ V: ‘The end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time’, Complete Poems and Plays, p. 197.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rhetorica Ad Cornificius Herennium, 4.31.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Summa, IV 1, xxix.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Fiction Magazine, op. cit.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ian MacNiven, ‘The Quincunx Quiddified: Structure in Lawrence Durrell’, in L. B. Gamache and I. MacNiven, (ed.) The Modernists: Studies in a Literary Phenomenon (London: Associated University Presses, 1987) pp. 234–48.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    CERLD uncatalogued item, publisher’s dummy used as notebook, dated ‘Egypt … 1940–44’ which also contains the note for ‘The English Book of the Dead’ and ‘The Aquarians’.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cf. Paul H. Lorenz, ‘Angkor Wat, the Kundalini, and the Quinx: The Human Architecture of Divine Renewal in the Quincunx’ (conference paper, Lawrence Durrell Society, 1988).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    MacNiven, ‘The Quincunx’, op. cit.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    In P. Hogarth, The Mediterranean Shore: Travels in Lawrence Durrell Country (London: Pavilion, 1988) p. 110; confirmed in conversation with the author. The centrality of Constance is underlined by the fact that the book opens with ‘Quatrefages’ — the crossroads by which Durrell recognised the city of Avignon as a vast sanitorium as well as a political crossroads (Quintet 722) and also by the fact that Constance is dedicated to ‘Anaïs [Nin], Henry [Miller], Joey [Perlès]’, his lifelong intellectual companions.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid, p. 122.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    CERLD inv. 1344 (notebook) pp. 83, 85; cf. Quintet 351.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Milton, On Shakespeare.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    In a photocopy (CERLD miscellaneous file) from pp. 82–90 (Chapter 3: Architectural Sanctuary: part 4: the quincunx) of an unidentified work.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kundera, op. cit., pp. 24–5.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    CERLD inv. 1347, notebook ‘Minisatyrikon. Pont du Gard’ p. 7.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    CERLD inv. 1349 (notebook) p. 4.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    ‘Macabru’: it cannot have been incidental that Marcabru or Marcabrun was one of the earliest of Provençal troubadours (cf. Denis de Rougemont, op. cit., pp. 96, 114, 118, 119).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Alexandra David-Neel referred to the individual as being ‘composed of five parts … skandhas: material form (the body), sensations, perceptions, mental formations (ideas, volitions, etc.) and consciousness’, Buddhism, pp. 126–7; also cf. J. H. Bateson ‘Creeds and Articles’ in Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 4, p. 234: ‘the skandhas as aggregate elements consist of material properties, sensations, abstract ideas, tendencies and potentialities, and thought/reason’; L. Durrell, CERLD/Moreau/Wagner, p. 1: ‘les cinq skandas sont le corps physique, ou psychologique, le sentiment, la perception, les facultés mentales inconscientes, et la conscience’.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Fiction Magazine, op. cit., p. 61.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
  26. 26.
    Ibid., p. 64Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cf. R. Kearney, The Wake of Imagination: Ideas of Creativity in Western Culture (London: Hutchinson) 1988, particularly Part III: Postmodern Narratives.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Umberto Eco, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (London: Macmillan, 1984) p. 4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., p. 1.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ibid., p. 7.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Ibid., p. 8.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    CERLD inv. 1349, p. 17.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    SIUC/LD/Accession IIGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cf. my reference to Freud’s case histories above; conversation with the author.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Cf. James Joyce: ‘History … is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’, The Essential James Joyce, p. 25.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Spengler, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 9.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    CERLD/Moreau/Wagner, p. 9.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    ψ (the ophite symbol) occurs (marked by Durrell in his copy) in Gamier, The Worship of the Dead, pp. 222–4. The relationship of the circle to the straight line is discussed (again, as noted by Durrell: SIUC 42/8/1) by Barbara Haynes in ‘The Mundane Egg’, Occult Review, January 1939; the term ‘mundane egg’ itself derives, as Durrell would no doubt have been aware, from Blake, ‘Jerusalem’, Blakes Poems and Prophecies, p. 230. Θ (thanatos) has been mentioned as a possible source of the quincunx by W. Godshalk, ‘Durrell: Death, Love, and Art’, in OMG 2, pp. 105–7. We should also note that explicit mention of the ‘Q’ motif favoured by Durrell was inserted into the typescript of Livia (cf. p. 11: ‘Five Q novels written in a highly elliptical quincunxial style invented for the occasion’). Evidence derived from corrected typescript of Livia in CERLD.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cf. Eco, Semiotics, p. 12.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    E. M. Forster, ‘The Machire Stops’ in Collected Stories.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Cf. Kundera, op. cit., pp. 3–22: ‘The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes’.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Elaine Pagels, op. cit., p. 154.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Rank, Art and Artist, pp. 391–2.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ibid., p. 76 (Rank’s emphasis).Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Cf. Bacon, ‘Of Great Place’: ‘all rising to great place is by a winding stair’, Essays.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Brown, op. cit., p. 105.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Rank, Art and Artist, p. 101.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid. pp. 386,101.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    cf. Ephesians, 4: 25.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    ‘Asides of Demonax’, p. 68.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    ‘Quiminal’ was another surname which Durrell stated to be ubiquitous: here he said (perhaps mischievously) that a woman of this name had been an adjunct to his house in Sommières when he moved in: R. Green, op. cit.; it is also possible, given Durrell’s word-play, and especially in view of Nancy Quiminal’s role as a mistress to the Gestapo, that he may have been punning on a combination of the English colloquial term for the female genitalia ‘quim’ and the Roman topos ‘Quirinal’. We should also note the use of ‘quim’ as an onomatopoeic presence of the Scops owl in ‘Placebo’ ts, p. 34.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    We should not overlook the fact that ‘Trash’ (and indeed ‘Grace’) appears in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    CERLD inv. 1349, p. 45.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Cf. Francis A. Yates, The Art of Memory (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966) p. 243.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Ibid., p. 245.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Jung and von Franz, op. cit., p. 22.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ibid., p. 20.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Ibid., p. 22.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Ibid., p. 25.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
  61. 61.
    Ibid., p. 35.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Ibid., p. 39.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Ibid., pp. 68–9.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Ibid., p. 79.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ibid., p. 103.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Ibid., p. 121.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    V. Mercier, Beckett/Beckett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) p. xii.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    MacNiven, ‘The Quincunx’, p. 237.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Kundera, op. cit., pp. 24–5.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Ibid., pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Ivor Browne, ‘Thomas Murphy: The Madness of Genius’, Irish University Review (Spring 1987) pp. 129–36.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Jung and von Franz, p. 328.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Gospel of St Matthew, 5: 14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Pine 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Pine
    • 1
  1. 1.The Long HouseEmlaghmoreIreland

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