The Lawrence Durrell Travel Reader by Lawrence Durrell

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Notes on travel from the Mediterranean’s sharpest observer
Few men have traveled as wisely as Lawrence Durrell. Born in India, he lived in Corfu as a young man, enjoying salt air, cobalt water, and an unfettered bohemian lifestyle. Over the following decades, he rambled around the Mediterranean, making homes in Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece. Each time he moved, he asked himself why he felt compelled to travel. In this book, he gives his answer. Durrell knew that the wise traveler looks not for pleasure, education, or landmarks, but is hungry for a sense of place—the element of a landscape, city, or nation that makes its people who they are. In this anthology, passages from Durrell’s classic Mediterranean writings are paired with observations on other lands. His writing is poetic, lush, and achingly clear, for this was a man who truly saw the world.

About Lawrence Durrell

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A prolific and protean writer since the early 1930s, Durrell led a life as rich and varied as his writings. Born of Anglo-Irish parents in Himalayan India, Durrell attended school in England but spent most of his life abroad. Along with numerous odd jobs, he taught at the English Institute in Athens and at the Greek gymnasium on Cyprus; edited a witty and avant-garde magazine in Paris; founded and edited several poetry magazines; worked as press attache in Egypt and Yugoslavia; and lectured for the British Council in Argentina. The popular success of The Alexandria Quartet (1957-60) enabled him to live solely by writing. Durrell's first important work, The Black Book (1938), was greeted by T.S. Eliot as "the first piece of work by a new English writer to give me any hope for the future of prose fiction." In it, Durrell has said, "I first heard the sound of my own voice. . . . This is an experience no artist ever forgets." Appropriately, The Black Book was unavailable until 1962 in the English-speaking world that it attacked as smug, decadent, and cold. Durrell's fiction includes two apprentice novels, Pied Piper of Lovers (1935) and Panic Spring (1937); a psychological mystery set on Crete, The Dark Labyrinth (1947); The Revolt of Aphrodite (1974); and The Avignon Quintet (1974-85). Aphrodite, a not wholly successful satire of science fiction, Gothic romance, and business expose novels, concerns a young inventor's misadventures with modern technology and love. He is constrained to create an exact "living" replica of a beautiful, deceased Greek actress, but the machine, the perfect illusion, commits suicide rather than inhabit the world's harsh reality. The subject of much controversy, The Alexandria Quartet, is Durrell's major achievement. The Avignon Quintet shares the Quartet's aesthetic and thematic concerns. One of its narrators tells us that a quincunx is a form bearing mystical meaning derived from the pattern of trees in "an ancient Greek temple grove"---one at each corner of a square and one at the center. The mysticism expresses ancient Gnostic beliefs and relates to the Knights Templar (about whom one of the characters is writing a history), who were destroyed in the early fourteenth century but supposedly left a vast treasure buried at the quincunx's center. All of the characters, who are less vividly conceived than their Quartet counterparts, seek some metaphysical treasure or another. Durrell's other writings include three verse plays with ancient settings, a dozen books of poetry, including his Collected Poems (1956), five island books (the best of which, Bitter Lemons, 1959, won the Duff Cooper Prize), and several collections of "Sketches from Diplomatic Life. Willis has edited more than 30 anthologies on subjects ranging from mountaineering to mediation.
Published June 12, 2012 by Open Road Media. 375 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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