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Lawrence Durrell (Lawrence George Durrell) Biography

(1912–90), (Lawrence George Durrell), Pied Piper of Lovers, Cefalû, The Black Book

British novelist, poet, and travel writer, born in Julundur, India, educated at St Edmund's School. From 1934 onward he spent most of his life in Mediterranean locations, working as a journalist, for the British Foreign Service, and for the British Council between 1940 and 1957, when he achieved financial independence as a writer. His early novels, which include Pied Piper of Lovers (1935) and Cefalû (1947), attracted little attention; T. S. Eliot thought highly of his experimental ‘agon’ The Black Book (Paris, 1938; London, 1973), which displays the influence of Durrell's close friend Henry Miller: The Durrell-Miller Letters 1935–1980, edited by I. S. MacNiven, appeared in 1988. His international reputation was established with Justine (1957), the first part of The Alexandria Quartet, which was completed with Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958), and Clea (1960). The first three books of the work, which Durrell termed ‘a four-dimensional dance, a relativity poem’, reflect his interpretations of the theories of Einstein and Freud in using radically different narrative perspectives on a single set of events and personalities; Clea adopts a conventional chronological progression beyond the complex interactions of erotic, artistic, and political motifs in the earlier parts. Published in a single edition in 1962, The Alexandria Quartet, which has been both praised and condemned for the poetic opulence of its prose, anticipates the metaphysical critique of modern civilization central to its successors: The Revolt of Aphrodite (1974), consisting of Tunc (1968) and Nunquam (1970), concerns the resistance of individuals to the power of a multinational corporation; Monsieur (1974), Livia (1978), Constance (1982), Sebastian (1984), and Quinx (1985) are the five parts of The Avignon Quintet, a work whose extraordinarily mobile narrative extends from the suppression of the Knights Templars in the fourteenth century to the Nazi occupation of France. Durrell gained notice as a poet with A Private Country (1943). The Tree of Idleness (1955) and The Ikons (1966) are among his many subsequent collections; vivid and wittily imaginative treatments of people and places predominate in his poetry, which is fluently accomplished and has been preferred to his prose by numerous commentators. Collected Poems 1931–1974 appeared in 1980. His travel books include Prospero's Cell (1945), on Corfu; Reflections of a Marine Venus (1953), dealing with Rhodes; Bitter Lemons (1957), a treatment of Cyprus during the conflicts of the 1950s; and Caesar's Vast Ghost (1990), a historically digressive work on Provence. A prolific and wide-ranging author, he also produced verse-dramas, literary criticism, and translations; Antrobus Complete (1985) collects the humorous stories he based on his experiences with the diplomatic corps.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) Biography to Dutch