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Posted July 5, 2005
Durrell himself writes in the introduction to Balthazar that the four novels are part of one great interlinear which takes its theme from modern physics: the first three are the dimensions of space and the last is the dimension of time. Only Clea, the fourth book, can be called a sequel yet nonetheless, as with the books before it, it gives each character new depth. Justine presents what mathematicians call a first-order approximation to the lives of these characters in a remarkably well-described portrait of Alexandria. Balthazar creates an interlinear, breaking the assumptions of the first novel quite swiftly, and setting up the next two books, Mountolive and Clea, to refine the story. This tetrology is not four books rather, it is one volume with four dimensions, each building upon the previous. Durrell shows spectacular afflatus in his marriage of science and literature and the Sartrean romantic ideals of an ancient and storied city.
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Posted May 28, 2004
Durrell's ability to paint visual images with words is unsurpassed, even by the likes of John Updike. But in addition, the story line, set in Egypt after WW I and leading up and into WW II, allows Durrell to capture the mysterious and misty aura of the times, during which the American ex-patriate movement was strong, philosophy and discourse dominated the cafes in Europe, Asia Minor and the cities of the westernized middle east. Think Casablanca, think Sartre discussing the essence of being with Henry Miller or Gertrude Stein, think Anais Nin meeting you for a deep, dark cup of tea in a secluded back alley bistro!
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