Alexandria Quartet: A short review

Mar 14, 07:16 PM

ust finished reading The Alexandria Quartet by Marcel Lawrence Durrell(corrected at last moment, I somehow keep mixing up his name with Marcel Duchamp). This was one of my more ambitious reading projects, so I thought a short review was in order.

“Alexandria Quartet” is a famous piece of work, and apparently got close to winning Durrell the Nobel prize for Literature. It comprises of four novels: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea. I do not want to get into the details of what each one is about, since a certain charm of the stories lies in discovering how they all come together. In a nutshell, Durrell explores the fragility of truth when it comes to human experience. Past events as described by different characters in the story present new perspectives that completely change one’s understanding of the events and those involved in it.

There are certain difficulties that I encountered when starting on these books. One is the heavy metaphorical writing of Durrell. It does take a bit getting used to. The other is the lack of a frame of reference. Different events from different times are pulled off at random from the narrator’s memory, and presented with no hint towards the actual chronological sequence in which they happen. Once I got past these challenges while reading Justine, the rest of the books were a much easier read.

I have read novels with non-linear timelines before(The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Life: A User’s manual), but the kind of intertwining of causal relations that Durrell achieves in “The Alexandria Quartet” is something I had never seen before. I found his writing to be quite enjoyable too. The books are full of unexpected turns and the characters are, well, interesting; highly recommended from my side.


Rahul Jha

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Comment

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  2. I really like the works of the Nobelists, they are usually so different from everything I used to read when I was younger. Thank you for the review.

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