As we enter the second week of August the skies throughout the day have been overcast; the temperature over cold; the breeze underwhelming; so I donned a jacket, remained inside, and spent the day finishing my reading of the final volume of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet,

the book jacket of which is illustrated by David Gentleman.

As the characters from the five works gather for the last time the narrator, Blanford, considers that he is now in a position to write the book that they have been helping him put together. These volumes are of course it.

We are now experiencing the aftermath of the Second World War with its reprisals, its War Crimes trials, and the beginnings of the consequential population readjustments and migrations.

Themes of sexuality, love, lust, and the nature and power of orgasm continue; triangular relationships, incest, and orientation are underlying – this is managed with non-pornographic eroticism. The search for the mythical treasure of the Templars remains a thread which seems about to be snapped.

Whilst I would agree with the blurb-writer’s observation of Durrell’s magical descriptive writing, I think the best of this is contained in the earlier chapter concerning the converging of the European gypsy tribes where, long before the writer used the phrase “human tide”, his fluent prose described just that ebb and flow, managing the varying lengths of his superb sentences to evoke the essence of the gathering stream.

Particularly in the first chapter and the notebook section, the author enjoys amusing wordplay like puns (in either English or French) and misquotations, all of which exemplify his apparent ease with language.

This evening we all dined on further helpings of yesterday’s Monday pie with fresh vegetables and the same beverages, followed by Berry Strudel


This fourth novel of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon quintet is another celebration of his divine prose linking the patchwork of episodes containing his themes of love triangles; gnosticism; the Inquisition; sexuality; psychiatric conditions; suicide; murder; and rivalry, all involving the narrator and his invented characters as they assist the writer in bringing his work towards completion.

Durrell’s descriptive language, his insight into humanity, and the pace of his narrative carry the reader along at a sometimes exciting rate, although it is helpful to understand the metafiction genre that has become clear to me in working my way through the series.

I do not possess the next book in the series, and, although I determined about 15 years ago not to acquire any more books, I am tempted to break that resolution.

David Gentleman has once again provided the book jacket on the reverse of which appears an accurate blurb.


This third novel of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon quincunx contains the very best of his splendidly lucid prose, and more. Set during the period of the Second World War, the author demonstrates an ability to sustain lengthy periods of activity with all his adverbial and adjectival prowess, carrying us along apace with him. The narrative flows enough throughout the central sequences for us to forget that this is metafiction. His themes include an understanding of motives and conflicts about wartime activities; of the herd instincts and imposed fear that cause people to follow without question; of the position of women in society which can take many years to shift, despite hard fought changes in legislation; of a deep understanding of the nature of sexuality in love, in lust, and in the psyche.

The underlying sexual thread running through the work reaches a crescendo midway, as does the aftermath of war in an occupied city in the closing chapters, perhaps the most powerful in a powerful book.

David Gentleman has once more provided the book jacket.


It is perhaps the former cruciverbalist in me that prompted me to take up the Finnegan’s Wake challenge when I read that it contained sextilingual puns; or to persevere with Lawrence Durrell’s quincunx, of which “Livia, or Buried Alive” is the second book.

I failed Joyce’s challenge, giving up after 200 pages.

I am however getting somewhere with Durrell. This is because I am beginning to understand how metafiction works. Just as there was no sense in approaching Finnegan’s Wake as a chronological narrative this is the wrong way to appreciate Durrell’s work, which opens with a conversation between the narrator and one of his creations on the subject of autobiography, which in itself has echoes of our author’s own life story.

Set in the decade building up to the Second World War, I rather see the work as a series of tales concerning imaginary people who are not actually present, even when narrator Blanford is conversing with them. We have difficult early years; nocturnal wanderings around Avignon; discussions of fears about the conflict to come; a privileged wealthy libertine; some unpleasantly sordid revels suggestive of child abuse – all with Durrell’s glorious poetic prose. It is not easy, but so far is worth the effort.

Once again the Book Jacket is illustrated by David Gentleman’.

David William Gentleman RDI (born 11 March 1930) is an English artist. He studied art and painting at the Royal College of Art under Edward Bawdenand John Nash. He has worked in watercolour, lithography and wood engraving, at scales ranging from platform-length murals for Charing Cross Underground Station in London to postage stamps and logos.

His themes include paintings of landscape and environmental posters to drawings of street life and protest placards. He has written and illustrated many books, mostly about countries and cities. He also designed a number of British commemorative postage stamps.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gentleman

Slipped inside the front flap of this jacket is a browned cutting from The Times newspaper of 21st September 1978, on the basis of which I bought this first edition.

Reading And Conversion

Having this morning finished reading Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine” I later published https://derrickjknight.com/2023/05/12/justine/

This afternoon I converted the following posts from Classic to Block edits, changing categories of the first two to Garden:

This evening we all dined on Jackie’s classic cottage pie and tasty gravy together with well cooked carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Hacienda Don Hernan Rioja 2019 given to me by Ian last night.


Some two hundred years before Lawrence Durrell offered readers a blank page to represent silence – perhaps inviting us to interpret that of Clea – Lawrence Sterne, in “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman”, invited us to paint on his a likeness of a chosen beautiful mistress.

Durrell’s page is followed by a list of Workpoints as perhaps for a notebook, which may explain my ambivalence about “Justine”, the first of his acclaimed Alexandria Quartet, to which I have returned after perhaps 40 years of forgetfulness.

The writer’s cornucopia of abundantly luscious prose exploring the nature of love and lust in the context of a portrait of a suffocating city is indeed engaging. The mistresses described by the anonymous narrator are as beautiful as those suggested by Sterne. His descriptions of the nature of Alexandria shortly before World War II are packed in verbally delightful, yet economical, sentences.

My problem is that for me the work itself reads like a notebook in which I seek to follow a narrative of the interwoven lives of a variety of very passionate protagonists unable ultimately to commit, over periods of time to those they truly love, and consequently seem doomed to remain unsatisfied. Durrell has maybe captured the experience of many of us.

I am pleased that I was prompted to revisit this work by https://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2023/01/30/the-threshold-of-imagination/

Linda is an intelligent, resourceful, respected blogger. She has put much more layers of thought into her review highlighted above than I have managed in mine, no doubt the result of her repeated returns to it. In the interests of reasonable balance I would recommend reading what she has to say.