The Alexandria Quartet  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
The Alexandria Quartet is a tetralogy of novels by British writer Lawrence Durrell, published between 1957 and 1960. A critical and commercial success, the books present four perspectives on a single set of events and characters in Alexandria, Egypt, before and during World War II. The novel was deemed risqué at the time of its release. The female character Justine was inspired by Eve Cohen, a woman who apparently revealed a new world of sensuality to him and who would become his second wife. In a letter to his good friend Henry Miller, he describes Eve as serving up "experience raw – sex life of Arabs, perversions, circumcision, hashish, sweetmeats, removal of the clitoris, cruelty, murder.")

As Durrell explains in his preface to Balthazar, the four novels are an exploration of relativity and the notions of continuum and subject-object relation, with modern love as the subject. The Quartet offers the same sequence of events to us through several points of view, allowing individual perspectives to change over time.

The four novels are:

In a 1959 Paris Review interview, Durrell described the ideas behind the Quartet in terms of a convergence of Eastern and Western metaphysics, based on Einstein's overturning of the old view of the material universe, and Freud's doing the same for the concept of stable personalities, yielding a new concept of reality. For all the novels' experiments with chronology and viewpoint, for many readers the appeal lies in the luxurious beauty of the writing. Though often dismissed as pretentious, it is difficult to find writing that so prodigiously and intricately recreates atmosphere, place and fleeting emotion with such style. Celebrity admirers of the book include the British politician and ex-leader of the Conservative party, Iain Duncan Smith, who named the Quartet as the one book he would take with him to a desert island.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Alexandria Quartet" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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