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Tag Archives: Justine

“Best of” 2012?

I am still digesting Gore Vidal’s Creation; I will write about it soon.

As everyone else is doing the same, I will add my small contribution the the extensive dearth of the “best of the year” lists.  Despite the fact that 2012 is not yet over, I know.  But as this time of the year is usually too busy for me to read more than one or two books more, I will probably be safe in assuming the following are my favorites of the year.

NB: These are the titles of my favorites that I read this year, not necessarily published in 2012.  I am always behind on the newest.

Favorite Classic: (tie!) I, Claudius by Robert Graves, Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Favorite Modern Fiction: Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Favorite Literary Fiction: The Cat’s Table by Michale Ondaatje

Favorite Non-Fiction: The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

A Small Part of Justine

Just what the title says.  The unnamed narrator of Justine has just had devastating events overtake him.

He wanders the city… “…aimlessly as survivors must walk about the streets of their native city after an earthquake, surprised to find how much that had been familiar has changed.  Rue Piroua, Rue de France, the Terbana Mosque (cupboard smelling of apples), Rue Sidi Abou El Abbas (water-ices and coffee), Anfouchi, Ras El Tin (Cape of Figs), Ikingi Mariut (gathering wildflowers together, convinced she cannot love me),… An evening multitudinous with swallows…”  So it goes.

Sort of a meditation on both Alexandria the city and the individual human memory.

 

Vanished Alexandria

The first book in the Alexandria Quartet is entitled Justine.  It is not by a Justine, but it is about her- sort of.  The narrator is an Englishman living among other expats and natives in Alexandria, Egypt between the two World Wars.

The writing is rich and descriptive; the reader wades through the prose as the characters wade through the thick, humid Alexandrian air.  This book takes some time to get through, often making its readers stop to mull over certain sentences and phrases.  But, if you have ever wanted to travel to Egypt (as I do) then Mr. Durrell’s novel is essential- to feel the scorching breeze coming in from the desert as you walk along the ancient and famed harbor, hearing the muezzin’s call to prayer in the distance; all is real and alive in Justine.

The nameless narrator is recalling, through flashbacks and scenes that jump through time and from one character to another, his affair with the glamorous and enigmatic Justine.  The story comes together slowly, like pieces of an elaborate puzzle.

Apparently the story is told from several different perspectives throughout the first three books of the Quartet and all will be revealed only after reading all of them.  This may take awhile…