Egyptian Activist Calls To Save Durrell’s Alexandria Villa

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The Villa Ambron, where Lawrence Durrell lived and worked in Alexandria, is in a deplorable state according to this Facebook post by Ahmed Essam.

The terrible state of the historic villa has also been noticed by political activist Essam Fathallah, who has called for action to save the city of Alexandria and its heritage, as Egyptian outlet Al Youm 7 reports.

Durrell was not the only artist to live in the villa — Egyptian painters  Effat Nagy and Saad al-Khadem also resided there.

Notes on Durrell and the Symbolists

In 1958, a year after Durrell published Justine, Frey A. Stark published a review of his latest nonfiction work, Bitter Lemons, in the New York Times.

“One of the best English poets of our time, Lawrence Durrell, presents us, in his latest book, with a very notable achievement,” Stark writes. “It is not often that a topical subject gains by the handling of a poet. The emotional climate, to which poets are so sensitive, is damaging to the balance of reason.”

Durrell, the poet, published what is now his best-known book, Justine, as a novel – an odd state of affairs because in many ways it is a book of poems. John Press came close to recognizing this phenomenon when he wrote that the “best introduction to the Alexandria Quartet is the collected poems, just as the best gloss on his poems is the Alexandria Quartet”. In fact, large parts of Justine are not just prosified poetry, but read better as poems. Continue reading

Eve Durrell’s Alexandria

I would very much recommend reading this wonderful blog post about Eve Durrell, Lawrence Durrell’s second wife, and her home city of Alexandria.

The post is by writer Michael Haag, who is an expert on Alexandria and Egypt and has written several books about the city that inspired Durrell’s most famous novels. Eve, or Yvette, Cohen was the inspiration for Justine, the beautiful Jewish Alexandrian woman at the center of the Alexandria Quartet. Eve was the mother of Durrell’s second child, Sappho.

In the photograph of Eve and Michael in the blog post, Eve is aged 80 yet she still looks beautiful and one can imagine how absolutely stunning she must have been when she first met Durrell in Alexandria in the 1940s.

There is a lovely photograph of Eve as a schoolgirl here on Flickr. The lady who posted the photo is a relative of Eve, and explains that Eve’s sister Dolly is still alive and lives here in Israel. It would be wonderful to talk to her! Imagine what memories she must have.

Durrell famously wrote that “there are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature” and it seems he did all three with Eve.

Eve passed away in London in 2004.