Justine (Alexandria Quartet vol. 1) by Lawrence Durrell

After my failure to get into the Olivia Manning, I decided to revisit the Alexandria Quartet. I read these books years ago, I guess in the early 1980s.

In the Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (who was once a very much more famous writer than his brother Gerald) recounts certain events from the distinct points of view of 3 different characters, beore taking the narrative forward in the last volume.

Presently I am listening to all 4 volumes in sequence, and so will write a review of the Alexandria Quartet as a whole, but here are some quotations that it seems to me explain what Durrell was trying to achieve.

I remember her sitting before the multiple mirrors at the dressmaker’s, being fitted for a shark-skin costume, and saying “Look! five different pictures of the same subject. Now if I wrote I would try for a multi-dimensional effect in character, a sort of prism-sightedness. Why should not people show more than one profile at the same time?

What I most need to do is to record experiences, not in the order in which they took place – for that is history – but in the order in which they first became significant for me.

Pursewarden on the “n-dimensional novel” trilogy: “The narrative momentum forward is counter-sprung by references backwards in time, giving the impression of a book which is not travelling from a to b but standing above time and turning slowly on its own axis to comprehend the whole pattern. Things do not all lead forward to other things: some lead backward to things which have passed. A marriage of past and future with the flying multiplicity of the future racing towards one. Anyway, that was my idea”

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