Through the Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell

Gordon Bowker, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-312-17225-1
Try to write a biography of a writer whose ""power over language was daunting"" without being able to quote from his works--published or unpublished-- ""except occasionally and briefly for purposes of literary explanation or critical comment."" With an ""official"" biography sanctioned by the Durrell estate in the works, Bowker (Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry) must resort to paraphrase, summary and assertion. He was still able to interview many of Durrell's family and friends, but their voices are almost always filtered through Bowker's unremarkable prose. The most sparkling and ""daunting"" words are those of the critics who have attacked and lauded Durrell's fiction and poetry. Durrell was born in India, sent to school near the border of Tibet and raised from age 11 in England. After a career as a poet and foreign diplomatic press agent, the Alexandria Quartet, four novels written in short, mad bursts (and published between 1957 and 1960) brought him his long-sought fame and fortune. With that success, the squat, lusty, miserly Durrell liked to mock himself as a literary ""fraud,"" yet basked in a stupor of fame through the 1980s. At the age of 72, he finished the Avignon Quintet and declared himself through with novel-writing. He occasionally relaxed his strenuous pace of womanizing, drinking and smoking before dying in 1990 without having won the coveted Nobel Prize. Bowker's thesis that ""Lawrence Durrell's place in English literature is not as secure as it ought to be"" will not convince anyone not already converted. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997
Release date: 06/01/1997
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!