Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The success of the Quartet

'Everyone congratulates me on the success of the Quartet. Nobody congratulates me on its merit' ~ Lawrence Durrell talking about his Alexandria Quartet
Lawrence Durrell's fiction is dark, multi-layered, challenging and deeply unfashionable. None of which has stopped me from recently re-reading his mystical Avignon Quintet with considerable pleasure. In 1982 a chance encounter with two Buddhist lamas took Durrell to the Dashang Kagyu Ling Temple in the French Morvan Forest and Durrell's unofficial biographer Gordon Bowker describes how the connection between the five Avignon novels and Tibetan Buddhism grew from the author's first visit to the Temple:
Durrell was delighted. The atmosphere was very much to his taste: the ghost of Original Sin, it seemed, had been thoroughly exorcised by these gentle people. He became a not-infrequent visitor to the place, imbibing their teaching and coming to see himself as more a Buddhist than anything else. And he began to see his quincunx [the Avignon Quintet] as an expression of Buddhist thought.
For the last years of his life Lawrence Durrell lived in Sommières in Languedoc. When he died in 1990 his ashes were scattered in the cemetery of the Romanesque church of St. Julien de Salinelles near Sommières. But a lama who was instructing him reported that Durrell was immediately reincarnated as a keeper of a vineyard in Burgundy. Which, in view of the author's colourful lifestyle, is quite appropriate.

I have to confess I was not aware of the connection between Durrell and the Dashang Kagyu Ling Temple until I read about it recently in Gordon Bowker's biography. The connection is a strange, or maybe not so strange, coincidence as my visit to the Temple last year inspired my photo essay about Jonathan Harvey's Quartets, which led me down more paths...

Read Durrell on Beethoven here.

* Header quotation comes from John Lucas' memoir of 1980s Greece, 92 Acharnon Street. (ISBN-13: 978-0955010538)

** Second quotation is from Through the Dark Labyrinth, a biography of Lawrence Durrell by Gordon Bowker (ISBN 0712666788 but out of print). Just how deeply unfashionable Durrell has become is shown by the fact that his official biography from Ian S. MacNiven is also out of print.

*** Gnosticism, which is a syncretic religion, is also a recurring theme in Durrell's fiction. More on gnosticism here soon.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. 92 Acharnon Street, Through the Dark Labyrinth and the Avignon Quintet were all bought at retail. Photo of Lawrence Durrell via Spad. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Pliable said...

Comment via Facebook -

Eamonn Quinn commented on your link.

"Fascinating post. I've never read anything by Durrell so will order some of his works."

http://www.facebook.com/overgrownpath

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Pliable - Thanks so much. I never knew, even having read and enjoyed the Alexandria Quartet something like 30 years ago. Haven't read fiction in a while - this might get me back to it.