CLEA by Lawrence Durrell


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It is impossible to discuss this fourth volume in Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive) apart from the others, as it would be difficult to read it without having read the others. But the initiated will find themselves happily engulfed once more from the opening sentences. The first three novels encompassed the same material and time, with sundry plots and counterplots of both a personal and a political nature in the period leading up to World War II. Each was told from a different angle. Clea moves forward in time, the events taking place during and after the war. It is told by Darley, the schoolroom teacher-writer, as were the first two, and concerns primarily his love affair with Clea, the bi-sexual painter, and the growth of both into mature artists. But since these books are about everything, or at least the literary preoccupations of our times, there are other characters at least as important and other themes more thoroughly explored. The writing is again rich with implication, color, evocation, humor, wit and poetry. The characters are as vivid as dreams, and the city of Alexandria is as intensely realized as any character. Quartet is a magnificent whole, with each of its plots running into the others like a Rorschach ink blot, producing colors and forms as strange and significant. Critics will (or should) assess the whole work, and stores and libraries should bring the four together as a unit.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1960
ISBN: 0140153225
Publisher: Dutton