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The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea Paperback – 2 Jun 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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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: 12.6 x 4.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 553,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

Book Description

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell contains the hugely celebrated books Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Throughout The Alexandria Quartet, Durrell writes with a richness and resonance that is mesmerising. It is a glittering kaleidoscope of genius. His cast of characters is full of wonderful individuals, whether it be the raddled old sea dog Scobie, or the suave Nessim, the party loving Pombal, all chime with the resonance of people whom Durrell must have closely observed. The plot is as twisted as the stands of rope securing the Egyptian dhows to their moorings in Alexandria Harbour. The Quartet rings with the echoes of Severis' poetry, and has snatches of aracane philosophy and descriptions of the Gnostics that give a fascinating insight into the rich social and religious palimpsest that was and is Egypt, along with a real understanding of the diplomatic and political interplay of Britain and Egypt in the early 20th century. Reading the book is like whirling one way on a merry-go-round, trying to watch a static object - only to discover yourself on another merry-go-round whirling a different way trying to keep your eyes on the original object. It looks quite different. Durrell twists time to allow multiple viewpoints of the same story, and then allows the fourth volume to complete the chronological continuum so the story composes itself, and the true nature of the preceding events is finally aligned and arranged and there is a sense of closure. Without doubt one of my favourite books of all time, to be savoured in the balmy evenings of a Mediterranean island, listening to the warm wind through the palms, with the creak of cicadas in the background.
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Format: Paperback
The first volume, 'Justine', reads like a competent and engaging but rather predictable tale of adulterous romance - until 'Balthazaar' turns your perceptions completely upside down - and then 'Mountolive' repeats the same dizzying trick ('Clea' is a little disappointing, though). If I had not been stuck on holiday with a combined edition, I might not have progressed beyond 'Justine', and would have missed out on one of the most stimulating and enjoyable reads of my life. These books remind us that whatever we may think we understand about the world or other people is always open to re-interpretation.
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