Monday, May 02, 2011


Balthazar, Lawrence Durrell, E P Dutton & Co, 1958, 250 pp

 This is the second volume of Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet." He calls it not a sequel to Justine but a sibling. Balthazar was the mystic philosopher in Justine who brought many of the characters together in regular meetings for study of the Cabal and other writings. 

 In this version of the story, most of which is a letter from Balthazar to the writer of both novels, new light is shed on the relationships between the characters. I found it more readable and engaging than Justine. Durrell still waxes poetic on the beauties, mysteries and dark sides of Alexandria, but situations which were enigmatic in the first novel now become more clear. The tale takes on a flavor of intrigue, both political and personal. The reader begins to understand that there was quite a bit more going on than a simple love affair between the author and Justine.

 Durrell himself has a grand intellectual and artistic scheme at work in the quartet which, in these days of novels as commodities, seems almost too precious. Reading him now is a look into past literary pursuits and made me see how much things have changed; even made me a bit nostalgic. But, as Durrell asserts, time is relative and there is no going back. There is only the continuum.

(Balthazar is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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