Justine (The Alexandria Quartet I)- Lawrence Durrell

 

2014-09-19 01.20.00

 

“In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. It’s dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of sea-water licking it’s own wounds,sulking along the mouths of the delta, boiling upon those deserted beaches– empty under the gulls: white scribble on the grey, munched by clouds. “– Lawrence Durrell, Justine

Sometimes you discover a new author and know you’re going to be friends for life. A one-sided friendship but you know you’ll be better off for it.

I just finished one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I have never read such exquisite descriptions in my life. This is a story focusing on the intertwining lives of the unnamed Irish narrator;  Melissa, his girlfriend;  Justine, the woman everyone is infatuated with; and her husband, Nessim, living in Egypt just before the break of the First World War. You expect there to be affairs, and there are, but the pull of the story to me is more than the scandal, it’s primarily the writing itself.

“Capitally, what is this city of ours? What is resumed in the word Alexandria?” To me , someone who has never been to Egypt,  Alexandria is a place where the biggest library in the world once stood, the loss of which was a tragedy to all bibliophiles. To Durrell it was a racially diverse city with its many religions and culture co-existing in one region, a place for academics and writers. Alexandria is also an important character in this book, as mysterious with its diversity as is Justine, the titular character.

This is my ideal book; an interesting story in a fascinating locale, plenty of philosophy and poetic prose.  The words Durrell used were like poetry and left me stunned.  His characters are so well-developed, which maybe makes this one stand out to me a bit more than those in Anais Nin books (I do find their styles similar and I can see why Nin admired him so much). The characters seemed so real to me, one of the most interesting being Scobie:

“Scobie is a sort of protozoic profile in fog and rain for he carries with him a sort of English weather, and he is never happier than when he can sit over a microscopic wood-fire in winter and talk…Whenever he speaks of the past it is in series of short dim telegrams– as if already communications were poor, the weather inimical to transmission.”

The fact that there are three more books in the Alexandria Quartet fills me with such excitement. I have a new favourite writer:)

 

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