Exile and Return - a Psychoanalytic Study of Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet
Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Studies of the work of Lawrence Durrell abound in the application of literary theory. Seldom do we find a sectoral study which prioritises the writer over the theorist. It is therefore all the more valuable that Rony Alfandary has made a study of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, employing his professional acumen as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist to unpack Durrell's writing in terms of the unconscious and the uncanny.
I am particularly interested to see the attention Alfandary pays to Freud's “Uncanny” - that much misunderstood concept of heimlich/unheimlich which, Alfandary shows us, is profoundly present in Durrell's life and art. What he has to say about Durrell's relation to the heimlich Indian background and the constant recurrence of the uncanny in his work is of great value to us all.
So too is what he tells us of the “secret wound” as elaborated by Julia Kristeva. I think it is cognate, but not identical, with what Durrell called the “primal wound” which caused “uprooting despair”. It was associated for him with a sense of homelessness and a loss of integration, which gave him, almost from birth, a need to restore wholeness.
Richard Pine, Durrell Library of Corfu
Rony Alfandary has written a study of The Alexandria Quartet that insinuates itself into the very fiber of the work and, indeed, into Durrell’s internal psychic world, to give us anew a brilliant interpretation of this masterwork sixty years after its original appearance. Durrell’s ability to continue to engage readers of Alfandary’s caliber shows his continuing relevance.
Ian S. MacNiven, The Author of Durrell’s biography