CAESAR'S VAST GHOST: Aspects of Provence by Lawrence Durrell
Kirkus Star

CAESAR'S VAST GHOST: Aspects of Provence

Email this review


Durrell is often at his most pungent in this prose poem to Provence, which masquerades--here and there--as a travel book. Layer upon layer of human existence in Provence is examined, with references going back to the Stone Age, and set against the evolution of the landscape under massive incursions by foreign occupiers with their varied temperaments: Roman, Greek, Persian, African, Spanish, Frank, Gaulish, German, British. ""Yet underneath it all remained the persuasive intuition of Provence as a sort of laboratory in which the European sensibility was perpetually trying to forge itself anew: with each new race or strain the fitful light of the land played upon the newcomer. . ."" Durrell features the slamming poetic phrase and great rattling rhetoric throughout; both are sometimes suspect and need weighing, although Durrellian energy balls one forward like a steel boule. Some readers also will take issue with his harsh words about Judaic/Christian monotheism and how it crushed man's natural homosexual impulse. Others will simply surrender to this fabulous anecdotalist. Whatever age he talks about, Greek, Roman or modern, he rivets attention: ""These skies--the special wounded blue one finds sometimes in Mantegna's skies--are unique to Provence. . .They seem so freshly minted that the peasant faces you encounter in the Saturday market-place have all the poise and gravity of Roman medallions."" Here are bull-worship, Caesar's vast ghost in marvels of road and artifact, swarthy generals cutting up territories, wines and picnics not soon forgotten, and the birth of courtly, romantic love ""as a form of metaphysical inquiry."" Durrell in Fine form.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1990
Publisher: Arcade--dist. by Little, Brown