Lawrence Durrell - Further Reading

For people who fell in love with the Alexandria Quartet or the Avignon Quintet and would like to explore more of that Hellenic world.

I found Diego Delgado Duatis’s doctoral thesis The Hellenic World of Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell a superb read. It paints a picture as to what as going on in Durrell’s life during his time in Greece and discusses the poets, authors, and people who influence Durrell and Henry Miller. The thesis is an easy read and includes quotes a lot of colourful letters and poetry.

This dissertation analyzes the literary productions of two interconnected writers, Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, while paying special attention to their works on the Greek world, and the influence that the Hellenic culture had on both authors through some modern Greek writers. This thesis demonstrates that Miller’s and Durrell’s contact with the Hellenic World and with certain Greek writers of the first half of the twentieth century strongly influenced them and permeated many of their works. Here, the term ‘Hellenic’ is employed as used by Cavafy, meaning the Greek culture as a continuum. That is to say, the cultural heritage of the Greek people as a group sharing the Greek language and a common set of values.

Authors and texts to explore:

  • Constantine P. Cavafy (1863 - 1933). A poet featured throughout Durrell’s work. Collections of his poetry are ready available from second hand book stores.
  • Henry Miller (1891 - 1980). A close friend and influence of Durrell. His The Colossus of Maroussi is a piece of travel writing around Greece and the Islands.
  • George Seferis (1900 - 1971). Poet and acquiantance of Durrell and Miller. I recommend his A Poet’s Journal - Days of 1945 - 1951. I’ve also blogged a couple of his poems:
  • E. M. Forster (1879 - 1970). Wrote Alexandria: A History and a Guide published 1922. It paints a great picture of the city of Alexandria which enhances a later read of the Alexandria Quartet or Cavafy’s work. Of the book Durrell wrote “For two years I was able to walk about in the pages of this guide-book, using it as piously as it deserves to be used, and borrowing many of its gleams of wisdom and to swell the notes for the book I myself hoped one day to write”.

A selection of Greek contemporary authors, poets, and scholars. I’ll add notes as I read through their work.

  • George Katsimbalis - Miller’s Colossus. Storyteller and scholar.
  • Nikos Gatsos (1883 - 1957) Of note is Amorgos his sole, famed book of poetry.
  • Pericles Yannopoulos (1869 - 1910)
  • Nikos Kazantzakisv (1883 - 1957)
  • Pandelis Prevelakis (1909 - 1986)
  • Odysseas Elytis (1911 - 1996)
  • Yiannis Ritsos (1909 - 1990)

A lot of their work has been made available through translations by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. See the bibliographies of Keeley and Sherrard.

For those wanting a broad introduction to these Greek poets see Sherrard’s The Marble Threshing Floor which is

[An] introduction to modern Greek poetry for English-speaking readers, which, together with his translations, brought the poetry of Cavafy and Seferis, together with its cultural background, to the attention of the literary world

Second hand print copies are still available, or read it online here.

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