Lawrence Durrell's international fame is based on The Alexandria Quartet novels, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea, but this many-sided writer had already acquired a considerable reputation as a poet with the collection A Private Country (1943), and as the author of three travel books about Greek islands, Prospero's Cell (1945), Reflections on a Marine Venus (1953) and Bitter Lemons (1957) — the last about his experience in Cyprus during the period of civil strife. He is also the author of three verse plays, of which An Irish Faustus (1963) was particularly successful in Germany.
In this essay, G. S. Fraser examines Durrell's work in its different forms and weighs up their respective merits. For some critics it is in the poems and the travel books that Durrell really fulfils himself but Fraser, though finding a special personal intimacy in these, tin that Durrell's world reputation rightly rests on his fiction. He assesses the significance of an early novel The Black Book (1938) as a forerunner of Durrell's individual style and philosophical approach, before going on to examine in close detail The Alexandria Quartet and the two latest novels, which form a 'double-decker', Tunc (1968) and its sequel Nunquam (1970). Fraser praises Durrell's great comic gifts, his skill in plot construction, his rich and ornate prose style, and his ability to create characters that are larger than life. He concludes:
'Quite apart from the permanent value of his best writing . . . [Durrell] holds out a valuable lesson, an exemplary lesson to the younger writers of today. He has never stopped trying and learning.'
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