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4,6 von 5 Sternen
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am 17. Mai 1999
I read Justine, the first of the Quartet, and was initially very taken with Durrell's great facility in sketching emotional landscapes, and an almost mesmerizingly poetic prose style. Unfortunately, the book is marred by quite a few blatantly racist descriptions, of black people in particular; I'll spare you the details. Surprising in a book written past the half-century mark (published in 1957, I believe) and purportedly about an ultra-cosmopolitan city.
The other problem I had was the complete implausibility of most of the dialogue; it was as if Durrell didn't know how to make his characters distinct from the narrator's own sensibility; they all talk like master prose stylists with ultra philosophical and literary bents. Some may say this was intentional stylization, but if so, it works against the book.
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am 30. März 2000
Justine is a gallery of desperate characters, lost in the labyrinth of the self. Incapable of helping themselves or each other, they wound one another or allow themselves to be wounded, instead. In the character of Justine is the intensification of the novel, its bruised and bloody heart. The lines between cruelty and weakness blur and dissolve in her person, and we quickly learn that everyone is a victim of their own temperament, and that no one is to blame.
Justine is a book full of awful music and terrible poetry, of helpless posession and excorcism,of bitter truths & life-sustaining illusions. A pained and painful meditation on Love and, ultimately, Life.
For all of Mr. Durrell's masterfully crafted and stirring descriptions of Alexandria, the city soon falls off (like so much dead skin) and, there emerges the Human Face - grimacing.
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am 9. März 1999
This set calls out for a personal response: I found Justine by 'accident' in a house we rented in Tuscany.
It is a novel that enthralls you, never letting you go. Very few novelists can write about love as the object itself - or of self-understanding; Justine or Nessim, Clea or the putative writer could be ordinary people but we would never know.
Durrell masterfully mixes metaphor and sets atmosphere; he is writing of world, that like the love story itself, is long part of the past. He sweeps us along with him, and we enjoy the experience of reading emotionally as well as intellectually. The success of the quartet is not only literary, but also emotional and sensual. Self-Understanding, Alienation, Coming to terms lost love, not sentimentalizing the past, building a rich tapestry of the present and hope for the future all form elements of the catharsis in this novel.
Durrell fits into a rich tradition that includes Marguerite Duras and Ford Maddox Ford -- writers who meditate on language and love using a place, a time and a notion of the 'foreign' to express their character's alienation and attempts at self-understanding.
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am 8. Februar 2000
I would have given the book a rating of 5 stars if it were not for Mountolive, the weakest book of the quartet. But, nevermind! I was not able to get a copy of balthazar after about 4 months after reading Justine. I made up my mind not to read Mountolive and Clea without first reading Balthazar. Obviously, I made the wrong choice. For the quartet presents the same story in different time and perspective. Justine was well written and beautiful. I don't know if I would be hypnotized by Justine but i do know that Clea is something else. It was a different feeling after reading Clea. I immediately set out to find her. But she is only in literature. And yet I could not get her out of my mind. The words Durrell used to describe Justine and Clea were magnificent. He did not used words like "beautiful" and "pretty". He had the uncanny ability to say those two words in infinite sentences with each word lingering to our senses long after we have read it. It was really a dishonor to Durrell and other Quartet lovers that his book was ranked very low in Modern Library's 100 best books of the century.
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am 8. Februar 2000
I would have given the book a rating of 5 stars if it were not for Mountolive, the weakest book of the quartet. But, nevermind! I was not able to get a copy of balthazar after about 4 months after reading Justine. I made up my mind not to read Mountolive and Clea without first reading Balthazar. Obviously, I made the wrong choice. For the quartet presents the same story in different time and perspective. Justine was well written and beautiful. I don't know if I would be hypnotized by Justine but i do know that Clea is something else. It was a different feeling after reading Clea. I immediately set out to find her. But she is only in literature. And yet I could not get her out of my mind. The words Durrell used to describe Justine and Clea were magnificent. He did not used words like "beautiful" and "pretty". He had the uncanny ability to say those two words in infinite sentences with each word lingering to our senses long after we have read it. It was really a dishonor to Durrell and other Quartet lovers that his book was ranked very low in Modern Library's 100 best books of the century.
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am 1. November 1999
When I finished the story I knew that this is one of the rare meetings of my life; for it is hard to find a similar soul. I also write novels and I think the Quartet is something you always have to follow; even though you probably never reach its perfection. At the best parts I felt some mature, beautiful spleen: bright, pure and without bitterness. It may sounds strange but among the few stories where I found something similar there are some brilliant spy stories by Graham Greene and John LeCarré. (There is only one hero in my memories who is so weak and wise at the same time: the drunk publisher Barley Scott-Blair in LeCarré's "The Russia House".) This is the view of a man who lost many precious things but found himself. You can almost hear the charming song of calm loneliness over the roofs of Alexandria. And you can learn something about love again - or if you have already experienced the dirty voices of a romantic love song, you can comfort youl guilty soul with Durrell's words.
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am 3. Februar 2000
After having read the Quartet, I wonder to myself whether the books need to be read in any particular order. I read the books first to last, then last to first, reading Justine as the first one then reading it as the fourth one. I also tried several different OTHER orders. I found my best readings to be when Clea was read in either the second or third position. The books were best read in a rocking chair and--if and only if--Clea was read in the fourth position. Still when Justine is read on the beach in the fourth position--whether or not Clea is read in the the second, third or fourth positions--you just can't beat it. I'm still trying out several different locations and several different orders. Needless to say I love Durrell's work and I recommend trying out different reading locations and different orders. These books, more than any other quadrilogy that I have read, must be calibrated just so in order to extract as much insight as these books can offer.
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am 3. Februar 2000
After having read the Quartet, I wonder to myself whether the books need to be read in any particular order. I read the books first to last, then last to first, reading Justine as the first one then reading it as the fourth one. I also tried several different OTHER orders. I found my best readings to be when Clea was read in either the second or third position. The books were best read in a rocking chair and--if and only if--Clea was read in the fourth position. Still when Justine is read on the beach in the fourth position--whether or not Clea is read in the the second, third or fourth positions--you just can't beat it. I'm still trying out several different locations and several different orders. Needless to say I love Durrell's work and I recommend trying out different reading locations and different orders. These books, more than any other quadrilogy that I have read, must be calibrated just so in order to extract as much insight as these books can offer.
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am 8. Oktober 1999
Durrell's evocation of Alexandria and exploration of living as a process of discovery and encounter is a brilliant masterpiece. Returning to it after many years, I was astonished at how strong and successful it is. Don't be misled by the wonderful false clues (Durrell may even have believed them, but that doesn't matter!)--this series restores the novel to its capacity to enlighten, delight, and introduce the reader to the world as a world of encounters. All places become exotic after one reads about Durrell's Alexandria. Characters acquire character, not psychological traits--this is its most surprising, and non-"modern", aspect. And to think that Durrell managed this book, truly an artistic masterpiece, imbuded with the viewpoint of the artist, as a mass popular success! And why not? Hard to do; he did it--a hat trick. Durrell is revealed as a brilliant writer, and you will not forget his Alexandria.
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'The Alexandria Quartet' is an outsider in the modern literary canon; however, it consists of more than beautiful prose and an exquisite juxtaposition of images. Durrell is important not just for creating 'new' & colourful scenes, but for making the freshness of the modern literary movement into something which is valuable and moving. His inventiveness in regard to form does nothing short of comment on the nature and capacity of narrative itself. One is left wondering, 'If narrative cannot claim to present any kind of reality, and if the events / plot are of secondary importance, then what is it that remains which is so compelling?' In a sense, it is a romantic 'Tristram Shandy', with allusions and philosophical gestures to satisfy any reader. As much as I think that this work is remarkable, I must admit that Durrell eclipses it in his later 'Alexandria Quintet'.
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