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Durrell, Lawrence

quartet novels travel

(British, 1912–90)

Durrell was born in India and spent the first ten years of his life there before his family returned to England. His prolific output includes poetry, plays, and travel writing, though he is best known for The Alexandria Quartet, comprising Justine (1957), Balthazar and Mountolive (both 1958), and Clea (1960) which combine literary experiment with lush, lyrical prose. Set in Egypt before the Second World War, and with an exotic, cosmopolitan cast of characters, this highly popular sequence of novels describes the same events from different viewpoints, producing a kaleidoscopic effect that reveals unexpected and contradictory facets. Thereafter Durrell went out of fashion, and later novels such as Tunc (1968) and Nunquam (1970) seem pretentious and wilfully obscure. The Quartet, though, is an absorbing read, and his travel books Prospero's Cell (1945) and Bitter Lemons (1957) are vividly evocative.

Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Henry Miller  TH

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