Postscript to my yesterday's letter. I have just found in Camus (La Chute, pp. 113-14) exactly what I wanted to say about Durrell.
You are wrong, cher, the boat is going at full speed. But the Zuyderzee is a dead sea, or almost. With its flat shores, lost in the fog, there's no knowing where it begins or ends. So we are steaming along without any landmark; we can't gauge our speed. We are making progress and yet nothing is changing. It's not navigation but dreaming.
In the Greek archipelago I had the contrary feeling. Constantly new islands would appear on the horizon. Their treeless backbone marked the limit of the sky and their rocky shore contrasted sharply with the sea. No confusion possible; in the sharp light everything was a landmark. And from one island to another, ceaselessly on our little boat, which was nevertheless dawdling, I felt as if we were scudding along, night and day, on the crest of the short, cool waves in a race full of spray and laughter. Since then, Greece itself drifts somewhere within me, on the edge of my memory, tirelessly.... Hold on, I too am drifting; I am becoming lyrical! Stop me, mon cher, I beg you.
By the way, do you know Greece? No? So much the better. What should we do there, I ask you? there it requires pure hearts. Do you know that there friends walk along the street in pairs holding hands? Yes, the women stay at home and you often see a middle-aged, respectable man, sporting moustaches, gravely striding along the pavements, his fingers locked in those of his friend. In the Orient likewise, at times? I don't say no. But tell me, would you take my hand in the streets of Paris? Oh, I'm joking. We have a sense of decorum; scum gives us a stilted manner. Before appearing in the Greek islands, we should have to wash at length. There the air is chaste, the sea and sensual enjoyment transparent. And we...
No, decidedly, I do not have Durrell's coeur pur.
[129.1] La Chute: The text is taken from pp. 72-3 of the Penguin edition of The Fall. [Back to text]