“Life is more complicated than we think, yet far simpler than anyone dares to imagine.” Clea, Lawrence Durrell
“Society! Let us complicate existence to the point of drudgery so that it acts as a drug against reality.”
I had read only the first few pages of this last installment of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet when I was suddenly taken up with two opposing feelings: the first was the relief and happiness I felt at being once again amongst all of the characters I had grown to like so much or at least found so intriguing, and the second was the dread of the end- coming closer with each turning page. I just wanted to stay.
Naturally, the eponymous Clea comes into focus here; she is more complex in many ways than the other female characters that have been presented – likable in an uncomplicated way, a little bit of a fresh breeze in the saga. But it is Pursewarden who draws to me again, particularly with his hilarious Brother Ass ramblings that he addresses to Darcy.
“Laugh until it hurts, and hurt till you laugh.”
Pursewarden’s wit, cynicism and honesty are so precise they leave no scars on the target, no reverberations of aggrandizement or protectionism are necessary – a simple laugh of acknowledgement is much more fitting and worthy of those whom come under the examination of his pen.
There are several astonishing twists and turns in this novel: life and death moments that are absolutely riveting. Durrell’s writing is so smooth and calm, the juxtaposition of the story to the telling of the story is really wonderful.
As I read, I couldn’t help thinking that we live in a very uptight, “square” and…boring age. I wonder what Durrell would have made of it. In each of these stories the characters, good or bad, are interesting, vivid people with lives that wring out a reaction from the characters that surround them, as well as from the reader. Without being crass or vulgar, there is an honesty, sensuality and physicality that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Today everyone is too afraid of upsetting their own personal bourgeoise prison to actually experience life and – live.
Durrell surprised me somewhat by bringing the stories (all four of them) to such a complete and satisfying end- the sort of end that really begins anew. Clea, (and The Alexandria Quartet taken as a whole with Justine, Balthazar, and Mountolive), is a startlingly beautiful tale woven by the thread of a complex mysterious and ethereal city, trod upon by the sort of people whom are not so easily come by – authentic, feeling, fragile but enduring artists, in other words – human.