(Current fiction and quality fiction of the past.)
Examiner suggests reading or re-reading “The Black Book” (Faber & Faber) by Lawrence Durrell as an appropriate way to participate in the 100thanniversary celebration of his birth in 1912. There are 10 copies available at the University of New Mexico library in Albuquerque, seven in English, one in French, one in Modern Greek, and one audio version in English.
While the Albuquerque public library has 15 copies of books by Durrell, it does not list “The Black Book;” nor do the local Barnes and Noble bookstores list it in stock. It’s available online from Barnes and Noble and from Amazon, among others.
The 100thanniversary is being observed worldwide. The International Lawrence Durrell Society has invited authors to participate in the 2012 Lawrence Durrell Centenary (June 13–18, 2012) — a gathering of readers, scholars, archivists, and distinguished speakers in London, the “city that looms behind all other Durrellian cities, real or imagined,” write the Centenary promoters. Would-be presenters can offer their contributions at call for papers.
Many readers plan to travdel to London for the gathering at Goodenough College and the British Library in Bloomsbury, a district in the London Borough of Camden. Bloomsbury is a vibrant historic district made most famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers that included Virginia Woolf and EM Forster (“Bloomsbury Set”), economist John Maynard Keynes and the artist Roger Fry.
Goodenough College has been around since 1931. Its aim was to improve international tolerance and understanding amongst people on the brink of their careers by providing a forum in which they could interact. The College now consists of a community of 650 postgraduate students from more than 90 countries. Bloomsbury is also the location of the British Museum, the British Library, the campus of University College London and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings.
“It is important that conference participants get a sense of what he experienced, and of some of the sites that appear in his first three novels. . . Durrell was a writer extremely attuned to place, and he wrote about the ‘spirit of place.’ He might have decried ‘Pudding Island,’ yet it was where he first heard the sound of his own voice, where he picked up the impressions that would go into his first really successful novel, ‘The Black Book.’” – Ian MacNiven, author of “Lawrence Durrell: A Biography” (Faber & Faber).
Amazon’s review of MacNiven’s book: “Lawrence Durrell, the oversexed, bad boy of mid-20th-century British letters is treated somewhat gingerly by biographer Ian S. MacNiven. He skims over the intense rivalry between Durrell and his younger brother, bestselling author, Gerald; avers that Durrell did not abuse his daughter Sappho (who, at 33, hanged herself), despite her claims to the contrary; and even asserts that Durrell’s insatiable appetite for new sexual conquests and acrobatics aside, the novelist was “in his fashion” faithful to each of his wives. MacNiven, the editor of ‘The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-80’ knows his subject well, and he fills the book with biographical detail about Durrell’s lovers and friends–people such as Teresa Epstein who may have been the original model for Justine.” – Copyright © Amazon
“The Black Book” was published originally in Paris by the Olypmia Press, as part of a series of books arranged by Durrell and Henry Miller. Due to its obscenity, Faber were unable to publish the book in the UK although TS Eliot wrote that it was “the first piece of work by a new English writer to give me any hope for the future of prose fiction.” Faber finally printed a UK edition in 1973.
For more on Durrell, see “The Alexandria Quartet” (Examiner).
The International Lawrence Durrell Society was founded in 1980 at the Modern Language Association convention. The Society hosts bi-annual conferences, organizes panels at other conferences, and publishes a newsletter and journal. Among the resources here, you will find an Internet Discussion Group, general and critical bibliographies, information on conferences, and information on archival resources.
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