The City as Field

  • Richard Pine


Love is a metaphor. The city of Alexandria is the place where the writer must submit the poetry of that metaphor to the crucible of prose. When the equation <man = woman>, which can be so effectively expressed in poetry, submits to the mapping exercise of prose, it becomes more proximate, guesswork. Anyone can love in pasture; the principles established in the isolation of the Heraldic Universe become recast in the light of city experience: the ‘investigation of modern love’, which was Durrell’s professed interest in writing The Alexandria Quartet, belongs where that field, in his worlds, has been ‘ploughed into cities’ (Quartet 95). In the island each metaphor, each act of poetry, hastened and increased the occasion of love; in the city, it is diminished and retarded. Hence the city itself dominates the human landscape, so much so that it becomes the presiding entity, the ambit of fear. It introduces a new factor. In the words of Lewis Mumford, ‘in the city, time becomes visible … mind takes form’;1 in those of Kundera, the city becomes ‘the planet of inexperience’.2 Landscape becomes a field, a place where action must submit to measurement.


Romantic Love Black Book Opening Page English Book Metaphysical Speculation 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    L. Mumford, The Culture of Cities (London: Secker and Warburg, 1938) pp. 9, 5 also N. Lewis, ‘The Alexandria Quartet and the Motion of the Field: Drifting, Exploring, Regrouping’ in OMG/2, pp. 145–54.Google Scholar
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    Spengler, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 305 (Spengler’s emphasis).Google Scholar
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    DML 169–72.Google Scholar
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    Durrell’s manuscript and typescript notes for his lectures at CalTech in 1974 are held in SIUC/LD/Accession II: Box 2. They consist of the following typescript pages: ‘Ford Madox Ford Lecture’ (2 pp.); ‘The Semantic Disturbance’ (2 pp.); and ‘Last Seminar’ (2 pp. dated 16 March 1974) on Sons and Lovers: Anaïs Nin attended and spoke at this. Another typescript page, relating to Joyce’s Ulysses, is accompanied by two pages of schematic manuscript notes. A further three pages of ms. notes contain ideas which subsequently appeared in the Quintet, e.g. Wordsworth’s (incorrectly quoted) ‘every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original must himself create the taste by which he is to be judged’, and Blake’s ‘Damn braces, bless relaxers!’Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Richard Pine 1994

Authors and Affiliations

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

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