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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2015

From the elephant’s back

Collected essays and travel writings of Lawrence Durrell

James Gifford, ed. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2015; 440 pp; ISBN: 978-1-77212-051-6, $39.95 CAD.

This collection has a straightforward ambition — to redirect the interpretive perspective that readers bring to Lawrence Durrell's literary works by returning their attention to his short prose. Best known for his novels and travel writing, Lawrence Durrell defied easy classification within twentieth-century modernism. His anti-authoritarian tendencies put him at odds with many contemporaries — aesthetically and politically. However, thanks to a compelling recontextualization by editor James Gifford, these 38 previously unpublished or out-of-print essays and letters reveal that Durrell's maturation as an artist was rich, complex, and subtle. From the Elephant’s Back includes three main areas for critical intervention: reconsidering Durrell’s political postures over time; reassessing his position in English literature as a Late Modernist; and addressing the role of the poignant suffering surrounding the Second World War in his travel writing. The result is that this edition promises to open up new approaches to interpreting Durrell’s more famous works. Durrell fans will treasure the book’s selection of rare nonfiction, while scholars of Durrell, modernist literature, anti-author­itarian artists, and the Personalist movement will also appreciate Gifford's fine editorial work. A century after Durrell’s birth, readers will find Gifford’s reconsideration necessary to that century’s understanding of itself.

Information made available by the publisher.