When I was girl I lived in a large room full of bookshelves. The books were just there. There was a little quartet that always drew my attention. I never read them through, just a page here a page there, I was really too young for them. Still I cannot think of my years spent in that room without thinking of these books and evoking the images of their covers, the weight of their paper.
The other day I came across a quote:
“I have been looking through my papers tonight. Some have been converted to kitchen uses, some the child has destroyed. This form of censorship pleases me for it has the indifference of the natural world to the constructions of art- an indifference I am beginning to share.” Lawrence Durrell, Justine
I knew immediately where it was from, (The Alexandria Quartets) it must have been one of the pages I read. It seemed reason enough (me happening upon this quote all these years later and more than that: remembering it) to read it. They were my father’s books, but he died when I was two so I can’t ask him about them now. “Justine was his favorite,” my mother said when she saw me reading it.
Is it true that we look for connections and confirmations? If we find them does that make it real, or just a mere coincident signifying nothing. I don’t know, and yet I find myself being guided by these “signs”. Even if I cannot escape my heartfelt cynicism. I read it, but I know it means nothing. I will neither find my father, myself nor any one else in it beyond what is available to any reader.
At any rate, I particularly like books that are set in this corner of the world (I, for instance, prefer The Stranger to 1984 simply because I loved the setting of Algiers, it almost seemed another character to me). Granted I make it a big corner, Morocco to Persia, having only spent time in Turkey my ignorance will make allowances stretching the boundaries of the corner to suit my thesis.
To be sure Alexandria is an important part of this lugubrious tale. Justine is full of tragic love and it is an intense read if you’re of a melancholic state of mind. Every character is so unhappy and so unhappy in love. You just want to shake them out of their seemingly self inflicted misery, rouse them from the dry wind of their pathos. The atmosphere and language of the book is skillfully and wonderfully rendered: you can almost smell the sea air, feel the hot breeze on your arm. It quite haunts me. The next book in the series is Balthazar (followed by Mountolive and then Clea) which I look forward to reading and perhaps reading into.
Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us? – Justine
*Eric Ryan is my father