THE BLACK BOOK by Lawrence Durrell


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This early novel was written when Durrell was 24 and was, according to the author's introduction to its first American publication here, ""a two-fisted attack on literature by an angry young man of the thirties"". Its points of interest today are mainly two. First, as pointed out, is the contrast between today's ""angries"" and one of the '30's. Second, and most important, is that we see here the genesis of many elements of theme and style which have made his Alexandria Quartet (Justine, etc.) so widely hailed. Here they are presented in a crude, undisciplined, violent, and quite soon hypnotically boring form. The story- if it can be called that at all- deals with an assorted group of people living in a dreary London hotel: a homosexual; a Peruvian lecher, a D. H. Lawrencian, a gigolo, several prostitutes, the narrator, and, in absentia, the author of a diary left behind in the narrator's room. The themes are loneliness, egoism, the varieties of sex, love, and hate, death, isolation, escape, decay, and ""the English Death"", the conventional cultural trappings of the time. The influence of Henry Miller is evident, but there is much (although not enough) of Durrell's own mark on the book too. The Black Book was considered shocking when it was written, and it still is. But its repetition of shocks is deadening rather than stimulating at this length and at this date when so much has been done along the same line. Its main fascination now lies in seeing the very earliest beginnings of Durrell's use of the diary technique (there are three here), of his musings on sex, and his first, most primitive versions of characters who become Melissa, Purse-warden, Pombal, Scobie, and Darley. For the rest, it seems more dated than daring.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1960
ISBN: 1596542853
Publisher: Dutton