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The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea [Paperback]

Lawrence Durrell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2005
Lawrence Durrell was one of the best-selling, most celebrated English novelists of the late 20th century. The Alexandria Quartet is unquestionably his most admired work, at heart a sensuous and brilliant evocation of wartime Alexandria. In this world of corrupt glamour, L. G. Darley attempts to reconcile himself to the end of his affair with the dark, passionate Justine Hosnani - setting alight a beguiling exploration of sexual and political intrigue that the author himself described as 'an investigation of modern love'.


Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New Ed edition (2 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057122556X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225569
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Durrell was a master at creating and handling tension ... I was fascinated from the start.' -- Wilbur Smith

'One of the most important works of our time.' -- New York Times Book Review

'Intoxicating.' -- Niall Ferguson

'A formidable, glittering achievement.' --Times Literary Supplement

'The writing is nearly always superb, not only in the great passages of poetical description but also in the asides, the casual wit and brilliance of comment.' -- Philip Toynbee, Observer

'There can be no doubt of the magnitude of Durrell's achievement.' --George Steiner --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India. He attended the Jesuit College at Darjeeling and St Edmund's School, Canterbury. His first literary work, The Black Book, appeared in Paris in 1938. His first collection of poems, A Private Country, was published in 1943, followed by the three Island books: Prospero's Cell, Reflections on a Marine Venus, about Rhodes, and Bitter Lemons, his account of life in Cyprus. Durrell's wartime sojourn in Egypt led to his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, which he completed in southern France where he settled permanently in 1957. Between the Quartet and The Avignon Quintet he wrote the two-decker Tunc and Nunquam. His oeuvre includes plays, a book of criticism, translations, travel writing, and humorous stories about the diplomatic corps. Caesar's Vast Ghost, his reflections on the history and culture of Provence, including a late flowering of poems, appeared a few days before his death in Sommières in 1990.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
109 of 110 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is one of the major english novels of the century and it is a shame that it not read and known more widely. It is essentially the story of a group of characters living, loving and interacting in Alexandria in the late 30s and early 40s but, in a challenge to the linear narrative techniques dominant in most novels, the first three parts (originally separate books) tell of the same period of time; only in the final part is the story 'moved on' in the conventional sense. Thus, the complex web of relationships and the motivations of the characters are revealed slowly adding to the dense, rich and beautiful tapestry of the work. The novel makes the reader question the nature of reality, the truth of our perspectives and to appreciate the labrynthine nature of human life itself yet all this is done without preaching and authorial comment damaging the artistic integrity of the work. It is always the story and her characters - that one develops a real attachment to - that remain prior. The language of the novel itself is perhaps its greatest treasure. Durrell from start to finish writes with elegance and strength - with the observations of the poet and the hunger of a man who has lived through such experiences. Alexandria - the city, of course, can also lay claim to be the central figure, her presence captured so uniquely by Durrell haunts almost every page, interacting with the protagonists and providing a real 'sense of place.' It is a sublime work that all lovers of serious literature should read.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most brilliant work of post-war British fiction 25 Aug 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Since I first read it,... the Alexandria Quartet has haunted me. Durrell's style is admittedly dense, but all this means is that you get to spend more time with the book, a true blessing. It's a jigsaw puzzle, stories fitting together in unlikely ways, and each of the four novels on their own would count as brilliant (with the possible exception of Mountolive, which is only 'very good'). But taken together they are mindblowing: each complements and adds to each of the other volumes. Quite amazingly good.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for all the senses 4 Mar 2001
Format:Paperback
The great sweep of Durrell's quartet is almost impossible to describe. His characters and the evocation of wartime Alexandria are so perfect that you can taste the perfume on Justine's neck, hear the call from the mosques and smell the blood of camels butchered in the streets. Here are poets and prostitutes, diplomats and gun runners. There are scenes of lust and love and violence and despair. The characters mutate as the story unfolds and then convolutes upon itself again. We are as confused as the characters themselves and never find ourselves in a position where we understand events before they do. Myriad scenes tumble upon each other; a bird shoot on Lake Mareotis, the masqued ball, the strange death of Pursewarden, the dreadful death of Narouz. Across four volumes Durrell seldom puts a foot wrong and while his florid prose is not to everyone's taste, nobody can deny that this is one of the the under rated classics of the twentieth century. After the grim years of the Second World War and the grey, slow grind of the 1950s, this novel must have burst upon literary Europe like a comet streaking across the sky. It is an essential book for anyone who considers themselves well-read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic 13 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback
This book is a masterful piece of work. At times exciting, always evocative of the great city of Alexandria, this book describes beautifully what it was like before the foreigners were removed. Only traces of this Alex remain today but in many ways the city is the same.

Durrell's flights of fancy, highly seeped in the erotic, are cleverly welded together into 4 stories that becomes 1. I have to admit I started this book many times, but it just seemed too big, too dense to get through. Then I was given the 4 books separately as a present. Not as daunted as I was by the one MASSIVE tome, I enjoyed it much more.

Ideally the place to read it is in Alex itself, on your hotel balcony with wine, beer or ouzo (as you prefer). Go in winter and enjoy the rainstorms over the corniche, the kind yet somehow harsh locals, the fantastic sea food. This book is a good excuse for a holiday.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
During the decade of Lucky Jim and the angry yet desperately serious young men, Lawrence Durrell became the toast of the town with this wonderful series of novels. No kitchen sinks, no post-war British self absorption, this wonderful series won accolades around the globe. It tells the story of a group of ex-patriates in Egypt during the war, and the sexual and political intrigues that define their lives through a number of different narratives. Ever lively text - Durrell is the finest writer describing landscape this century - and varied characterisation (he wavers between the complex and the two dimensional without shame!) make this a feast for tired eyes. If you have never read Durrell, read only this book and it will last you a lifetime.
Durrell's star shone only briefly in the UK - critics preferring the more minimalist writers of his generation once the puff of celebrity was over, but he always retained an audience abroad - especially in France. But as an antidote to Amis, Osbourne and the other grey men of the fifties, this is a fine option.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Just did not like it
Published 6 days ago by randolph
5.0 out of 5 stars perfection
The most evocative and beautiful collection ever written. Egypt and Alexandria rise from the pages. Characters live in the mind forever. Thank you Mr Durrell.
Published 17 days ago by Marion Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
I found this book to be fascinating, although difficult to read. The style is rather turgid and the themes skip around. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christobel
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
There is always a good reason to return to fine literature. This quartet echoes to the Egyptian heat in the early part of last century and the scenes seem so thoroughly of that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't get into it.
I've thought for decades that I should read this quartet, so I ordered it for my Kindle. I've started the first part, but I'm finding it irritating, mannered and completely... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Desdemona
5.0 out of 5 stars I've loved it all my life
And I return to re-read it every five years or so with fear that I will love it less, and each time I love it more. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Adelia Bernini
2.0 out of 5 stars The Alexandria Quartet
Since these books were first published I have attempted to read them three times.So far I have managed the first volume. I am now having a rest before tackling another one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Valerie Round
5.0 out of 5 stars Brooding masterpiece
What is it about the Alexandria Quartet. .? I hardly feel qualified to comment when so much has been written about these extra-ordinary books. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Tweedledum
5.0 out of 5 stars The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea
The Alexandria Quartet: four linked narratives, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea, is a remarkable work; one of Lawrence Durrell's best. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Reuben
5.0 out of 5 stars What a masterpiece!
Its a long read (880) pages, but so enthralling. The twists and turns, the intrigue and the way that the story unfolds from different peoples viewpoints is absorbing. Read more
Published 10 months ago by A. Travis
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