Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Lawrence Durrell


The Anglo-Irish novelist, poet, playwright and travel writer Lawrence Durrell was born on 27th February, 1912. 

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)

He has a long and close association with Corfu, Greece

 The White House, Corfu where Larry and his first wife Nancy lived from 1935

Like Durrell, I have spent a formative part of my life knocking about the Mediterranean. I have lived in Cyprus, the south of France and Egypt - places Durrell knew well and wrote about with such passion and elan.
I also know Cairo and Alexandria  and have been back to Egypt at least five times since my childhood.

The last time I explored Upper Egypt was with my son when we celebrated his 21st birthday with a week's trip by boat up the Nile.

 Larry is on the right - with his younger brother Gerald, their sister Margo 
and formidable mother Louisa

As a child I also lived for a year or so in Cyprus while Durrell himself was living just a few miles away in Kyrenia.

This is me in Cyprus in 1952. That year the rabbit population on the island increased ten-fold, entirely due to my activities as a 'Young Farmer'!

I knew nothing of Durrell then for I was only ten or eleven but later, when I discovered first The Alexandria Quartet (1962) and then his book on Cyprus, Bitter Lemons (1957) I was hooked

 Me on Corfu, 1965

Later, when I was working as a director in television, I took back an elderly lady who had been a child in the Valley of the Kings during the year Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen's treasure. Her father was Carter's assistant

This trip became a BBC documentary

 The view from my village - Chlomotiana, Corfu

Now I live in Corfu - an island Larry first came to as a young man with his brothers, sister and mother  in 1935

His younger brother, Gerald,  became a writer  and  a zoologist and his celebrated account of those happy days on Corfu is wonderfully captured in My family and other animals (1956)

 Larry with Claude (later his third wife) and Claude's two children. The woman in a head scarf is Cuban novelist Anais Nin. Larry's daughter Sappho is on the left. As a young woman she later committed suicide

This last year, here on Corfu, I also discovered (very late in life, I must confess) Durrell the poet.  
Lawrence Durrel was at the top of the literary world in the 1950's and 60's but is less widely read now. That is a shame because he remains a very great writer.

The illustrations for this article are taken from Gordon Bowker's dazzling biography of Durrell. Its called Through the Dark Labyrinth and was published by Pimlico in 1998

Mike Healey

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a small note. Anais Nin was not American. She was of Cuban descent, born in France. She lived in America later in life, though. Thank you for the otherwise interest post.