LIVIA: Or, Buried Alive by Lawrence Durrell

LIVIA: Or, Buried Alive

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Again, as in Monsieur (1975), Durrell takes us to Avignon, this time for much musing on fragrant days and memories before World War II, decked out with all sorts of Nabokovian author-to-character lectures and goopy sentences of the ""fine"" variety. Fledgling novelist Aubrey Blanford, on holiday, is introduced to Constance and Livia, sisters, who ask him along to share the Provence chateau they've inherited. Constance is fair, smart, good, and a budding psychoanalyst; Livia, on the other hand, is dark, lesbian, proto-Nazi, duplicitous--and Aubrey's mad for her. She even marries him (because ""it seems so unimportant; so I made you a present of something you wanted""), but she soon takes off to dirtier climes and crimes. Also sharing this Midi tangle are an Egyptian prince who throws orgies, a suffering-with-lust British consul, and a Jewish lord who thinks he's on the trail of the treasure of the Knights Templar. Aubrey recounts all this in mildly decadent tranquility, throwing in doggerel, notebook jottings, and long telephone conversations with the hero of his last novel. The effect overall is of some very close stitching that refuses to disclose a pattern, the literary equivalent of a spinster aunt's lifelong needlework project. Durrell, a nanny of letters if there ever was one, may be saving the pattern for his projected ""quincunx"" of five novels--this is the second--but few readers who wade through Monsieur and Livia will be waiting around to see what all this prettified rubbish is supposed to add up to.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1979
Publisher: Viking