‘Quests, Confessions and Puzzles’

  • Richard Pine
Chapter

Abstract

In the ‘quarry’ books for Tunc and Nunquam Durrell noted: ‘the irresistable [sic] book themes are three ① Quests ② Confessions and ③ Puzzles’.1 In each of these cardinal elements he saw an opportunity for exchange between himself and others, between himself and the world: the need to find and the need to be found; the need to confess, to explain, having its counterpart in the idea of trading, of giving and receiving confidences, intimacies of the mind; and the need to solve puzzles, revolving around the central question of the enigma of oneself. In this chapter we shall examine the subtext of his biography: how Durrell’s writing was aligned in such a curious way with his affective life.

Keywords

Placebo Clay Depression Schizophrenia Coherence 

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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    SIUC 42/19/8; the expression appears, in a slightly different version, in Nunquam (p. 52) — there are several variants of the phrase in the notebooks for The Revolt.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. in particular F. Prokosch, The Asiatics (1935) (repr. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1983) and The Seven Who Fled (1937) (repr. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984) [cf. also DML 157].Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    D. Barnes, Nightwood (1936 repr. in Selected Works of Djuna Barnes (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1980).Google Scholar
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    Conversation with the author.Google Scholar
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    Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 2nd series, ed. George Plimpton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977) p. 282. In the publisher’s dummy ‘The Cantos of Ezra Pound’ already referred to (CERLD uncatalogued item) Durrell had pasted in a newspaper cutting: ‘“Writing is a neurosis” says Dr Bergler, “like alcoholism and homosexuality. It is the symptom of an illness that goes back to the earliest stage of pre-natal life”.’Google Scholar
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    ‘Placebo’ ts, p. 100.Google Scholar
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    SIUC: 42/8/1. To several entries in this notebook, Durrell added the remark ‘Macon’ or ‘Macon’s notes’, sometimes spelling the name ‘Macon’ and at other times ‘Maçon’. A typical example is: ‘The embryo in the womb knows time but not space; dreams are reality (time) minus causality. The confusion is due to a missing dimension’ or ‘What is to be learned is method. The great negative; the paradox of advancing by retreating, choosing both among opposites; enduring all; loving.’ When asked to what ‘Macon’ or ‘Macon’ or ‘Maçon’s notes’ might refer, Durrell offered the suggestion that at a synod of the Catholic Church held in the Burgundian town of Macon c. AD 581 certain topics, including whether women had souls, the ‘freemason’s alphabet’, statuary and the Templars, had been discussed, and surmised that the entries in his notebooks referred to this; information to the author via Mary J. Byrne. However, although there were indeed three synods held at Macon (in AD 581, 585 and 62), none of these matters is recorded as having been discussed (cf. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. S. M. Jackson, [New York: Funk and Wapalis, 1910] 12 vols). Even if this was a characteristic leg-pull by Durrell to give the wrong scent to researchers, it remains a mystery how he could have been so resourceful not merely in knowing of the synod’s existence but also in imagining the details of its proceedings. The mystery of what ‘Macon’ refers to remains, of course.Google Scholar
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    Draft for the introduction to Balthazar: SIUC 42/19/8.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Bruno Bettelheim, The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self (New York: The Free Press, 1967) pp. 43ff, where he discusses autism as a response to external threat.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Jyoti Sahi, The Child and the Serpent: Reflections on Popular Indian Symbols (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980) p. 37: ‘it is the child who through his playful fantasies creates one universe after another. Often the figure of the wise old man, or ancestor, and the child, or first mortal, are confused, forming two aspects of one person.’Google Scholar
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    SIUC 42/8/1.Google Scholar
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    S. Durrell, op. cit., p.63: ‘he became the devil … she [my mum] looked up and saw in my father’s face an awful demonic look. It was as plain as day. As soon as he realised that she had seen it, he caught himself and re-composed his features.’Google Scholar
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    T. Hobbes, The Life of Mr Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, written by himself in a Latine Poem and new Translated into English ([London: 1680] Exeter: The Rota, 1979) p. 2: ‘My Mother Dear/Did bring forth Twins at once, both Me, and Fear.’Google Scholar
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    Keats, preface to Endymion.Google Scholar
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    F. J. Mott, The Universal Design of Birth: An Analysis of the Configurational Involvement of Birth and the Relation to Emergence Generally (Philadelphia, Pa.: McKay, 1948) p. 117, passage marked by Durrell in his copy (SIUC/LD/Accession II). Durrell also remarked ‘brilliant!’ beside Mott’s point (p. 33) that ‘people who have not been thoroughly born … are either striving back to the unborn life in their feelings, or are trying to exist in [their] disintegrated condition’. Durrell professed himself extremely impressed by both this book and Mott’s sequel The Universal Design of the Oedipus Complex: The Solution of the Riddle of the Theban Sphinx in Terms of a Universal Gestalt (Philadelphia, Pa: McKay, 1950) which he also annotated; cf. DML 258–9.Google Scholar
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    Cf. his musical Ulysses Come Back: ‘outline sketch of a musical based upon the last three love-affairs of Ulysses the Greek adventurer of mythology, adapted rather lightheartedly from Homer’ (London: Turret Books, 1970) which was also issued as a recording: TRT 102.Google Scholar
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    A. Rimbaud, Lettre du Voyant: cf. R. Kearney, The W ake of Imagination: Ideas of Creativity in Western Culture (London: Hutchinson, 1988) pp. 257–8; Pine, The Dandy and the Herald, pp. 95, 157, 185–6, 207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    CERLD, uncatalogued item (published’s dummy used a notebook) dating from c. 1937–44, i.e. begun in Corfu and finished in Egypt; for the further significance of this notebook, see Part 2, chapter 6 and Part 3.Google Scholar
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    Writers at Work, op. cit., p. 276.Google Scholar
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    O. Rank, The Trauma of Birth (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1929) p. 168.Google Scholar
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    cf. PPL, pp. 26ff; cf. also Groddeck, op. cit., p. 122: ‘we are children and remain so … we repress, everlastingly repress’; a cardinal point of coincidence between Walsh Clifton and Kim is, of course, the fact that both are half-castes, having been born to ‘native’ mothers.Google Scholar
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    S. Durrell, op. cit., p. 70; cf. again Groddeck, op. cit., pp. 12–13: ‘it is not that we forget those first years, only the remembrance of them is shut out from our consciousness. … Life begins with childhood, and by a thousand devious paths through maturity attains its single goal, once more to be a child.’Google Scholar
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    Mott, Universal Design.Google Scholar
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    O. Rank, The Trauma of Birth, p. 157; cf. also Sahi, op. cit. pp. 2–3: ‘in many ancient mythologies it is the child who is thought to be the active agent [in the womb]. It is he who like a young hero struggles out of the womb and takes hold of the destiny of his whole life.’Google Scholar
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    Bettelheim, Uses of Enchantment, p. 128.Google Scholar
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    A. Nin, Diary, vol. 6: pp. 163–4, 182: cf. also Mott, Universal Design, pp. 3–4: ‘our feelings uniformly sense that we are our own father, who has somehow passed through the womb of our mother, thus turning into ourself’.Google Scholar
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    SIUC 42/12/2.Google Scholar
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    cf. F. J. Mott, Biosynthesis: First Statement of a Configurational Psychology (Philadelphia, Pa.: McKay, 1948) p. 245: ‘we take our sexual natures for granted, supposing that a boy is simply a boy … and that a girl … is simply a girl. Nothing could be further from the truth’; marked by Durrell in his copy, now in SIUC/LD/Accession IIGoogle Scholar
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    Construire, op. cit.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Pine 1994

Authors and Affiliations

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

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