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Lawrence Durrell: A Biography

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Born in India in 1912, the son of an engineer, sent 'home' to school in England (which he christened "Pudding Island"), Lawrence Durell left for Corfu with his first wife and his incorrigible family in 1935, from where he was driven to Egypt by the German invasion of Greece in 1941, and in time to Rhodes, Argentina, Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Eventually, with his third wife, h Born in India in 1912, the son of an engineer, sent 'home' to school in England (which he christened "Pudding Island"), Lawrence Durell left for Corfu with his first wife and his incorrigible family in 1935, from where he was driven to Egypt by the German invasion of Greece in 1941, and in time to Rhodes, Argentina, Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Eventually, with his third wife, he moved to southern France, where he lived for over thirty years. His poetry, his island books and his novels reflect his passion for congenial places and people, preferably around the shores of the Mediterranean. As Ian MacNiven shows in this major biography, Durrell's private world was assimilated into his writing from the very beginning, and it has taken years of patient research to piece together the true narrative of his literary background and influences. The book was undertaken at Durrell's invitation, with access to his personal papers and notebooks and letters. It draws heavily on the memories of innumerable friends and contemporaries, as well as his own family and the many women in his life, including his wives. It will engross all admirers of this mercurial and richly gifted writer whose 'investigation of modern love' in The Alexandria Quartet produced one of the masterpieces of post-war fiction.


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Born in India in 1912, the son of an engineer, sent 'home' to school in England (which he christened "Pudding Island"), Lawrence Durell left for Corfu with his first wife and his incorrigible family in 1935, from where he was driven to Egypt by the German invasion of Greece in 1941, and in time to Rhodes, Argentina, Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Eventually, with his third wife, h Born in India in 1912, the son of an engineer, sent 'home' to school in England (which he christened "Pudding Island"), Lawrence Durell left for Corfu with his first wife and his incorrigible family in 1935, from where he was driven to Egypt by the German invasion of Greece in 1941, and in time to Rhodes, Argentina, Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Eventually, with his third wife, he moved to southern France, where he lived for over thirty years. His poetry, his island books and his novels reflect his passion for congenial places and people, preferably around the shores of the Mediterranean. As Ian MacNiven shows in this major biography, Durrell's private world was assimilated into his writing from the very beginning, and it has taken years of patient research to piece together the true narrative of his literary background and influences. The book was undertaken at Durrell's invitation, with access to his personal papers and notebooks and letters. It draws heavily on the memories of innumerable friends and contemporaries, as well as his own family and the many women in his life, including his wives. It will engross all admirers of this mercurial and richly gifted writer whose 'investigation of modern love' in The Alexandria Quartet produced one of the masterpieces of post-war fiction.

48 review for Lawrence Durrell: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Iona Stewart

    I got hold of this book as an unrenewable library book, and thus was able to get through only a little of it, in view of its size. If the book has a fault, it is its excessive detail and prodigious size. It begins by elucidating Durrell´s ancestry on both sides of the family and telling us of his upbringing in India. We learn about the whole family, which we also know from little brother Gerry´s entertaining books about their life on Corfu. The most interesting parts of the present book were, perh I got hold of this book as an unrenewable library book, and thus was able to get through only a little of it, in view of its size. If the book has a fault, it is its excessive detail and prodigious size. It begins by elucidating Durrell´s ancestry on both sides of the family and telling us of his upbringing in India. We learn about the whole family, which we also know from little brother Gerry´s entertaining books about their life on Corfu. The most interesting parts of the present book were, perhaps obviously, about Larry´s many relationships, including with the famous Henry Miller. Though I admit I haven´t read the whole book, I have looked through it; I didn´t find much, if anything, about Larry´s daughter Sappho´s claims of having an incestuous relationship with her father: I had read elsewhere that Larry was obsessed with incest, and such a relationship would certainly have explained Sappho´s mental/emotional problems and her eventual suicide. Perhaps it was a drawback that the author was a personal friend of Durrell´s, since then it might have been difficult for him to go into the negative aspects of his character and behaviour, including his drunkenness and violence when drunk. I would quite have liked to have read this well-written book in its entirety, but decided that despite its qualities life was too short to spend reading it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    It is clear that McNiven has put a tremendous amount of work into this biography. Years and years of interviews and research to try to wrap his mind around the story of an author who keeps changing the answers every time he asks, and who's answers contradict his friends and family's. What brings the rating down for me is the sheer massiveness and almost lexicon quality of this book (it's huge! and so full of details it's sometimes a slog). I also personally missed more of a connection between th It is clear that McNiven has put a tremendous amount of work into this biography. Years and years of interviews and research to try to wrap his mind around the story of an author who keeps changing the answers every time he asks, and who's answers contradict his friends and family's. What brings the rating down for me is the sheer massiveness and almost lexicon quality of this book (it's huge! and so full of details it's sometimes a slog). I also personally missed more of a connection between the man and his story and the symbols and themes in his work. It's as complete a description of his life as is likely possible (from his perspective. Others come through more clearly in Through the dark labyrinth). Something that adds to the enjoyment of reading the book is that McNiven, in contextualizing "Larry's" life gives an interesting account of Egypt during the second world war, Cyprus and the fight for enosis and India during colonial times.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Angus

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rob Woodard

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

  7. 5 out of 5

    Claire Y

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tadzio Koelb

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryu Ito

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Harshbarger

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alfia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  14. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

  15. 5 out of 5

    B

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Rowe

  18. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Bibliomane

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lidija

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  22. 4 out of 5

    BoredOnaTrain

  23. 5 out of 5

    ger

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hanka Šmídová

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mister Vertigo

  27. 5 out of 5

    Olga

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gill Arbuthnott

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan Wester

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lanny

  31. 5 out of 5

    Lula

  32. 5 out of 5

    Klaus

  33. 4 out of 5

    David

  34. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Baughman

  35. 4 out of 5

    m.j.

  36. 4 out of 5

    Lukasz

  37. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  38. 5 out of 5

    Matt Porch

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jason Gallagher

  40. 5 out of 5

    AL

  41. 4 out of 5

    Wikimedia Italia

  42. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Murdock

  43. 4 out of 5

    Ted Morgan

  44. 4 out of 5

    Inna Savelieva

  45. 4 out of 5

    Lucía

  46. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

  47. 5 out of 5

    Fredrika Engblom

  48. 4 out of 5

    Trudy Silverheels

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