Category Archives: Lawrence Durrell

2000 Books You Must Read: 3. Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Everyone is mostly aware of his brother Gerald Durrell but for me Lawrence Durrell is way better than his brother when it comes to the skill of writing. His books touch the soul like no other, they literally wrench it with their descriptions of love and loss. Justine is the first in what is called The Alexandria Quartet. I do not know how to describe this book and I have read it almost seventeen times now, and every time I read it, it takes my breath away. The book is about four people (actually five, including the narrator) and their lives in war-time.

Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Justine is about emotions – raw and in your face, the ones that threaten to tear your life apart and yet you are attracted only to them. Self-destruction in poetry is what Justine is about. The sentences sing – it is that fabulous a book. The descriptions want you to get on to a flight to Alexandria and experience the chaos for yourself. Time is of great essence in these books. It plays the central role – defining characters and their perspectives. There is no way to define Justine and what it does to me. It touches me on so many levels and you will only know of it once you read it.

Here is something for you from the book:

“A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants.”

“We are all hunting for rational reasons for believing in the absurd.”

“Who invented the human heart, I wonder? Tell me, and then show me the place where he was hanged.”

“The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.”

“It is hard to fight with one’s heart’s desires; whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of the soul.”

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