“A city becomes a world when one loves one of its inhabitants.”
Lawrence Durrell’s Justine, part one of his Alexandria Quartet, sheds a Western light on the mysterious mediaterrean city. Once again, all roads lead to Miller as an influence for my reading of novel. Published in 1957, the British author examines a complex set of events, from four different perspectives, before and during World War II.
Justine begins similiarly to Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. A nameless author is ranting, what I can only call, intelligent incoherence. But, like the Russian short story, a structure is eventually established and incoherence is converted to comprehension.
The writer recounts his time in Alexandria during a relationship with the emotionally unstable Justine. Durrell’s twist-and-turn city narrative becomes more than simple melodrama. Taking elements from Freudian psychology and classical philosophy, Justine is an entertainment on two planes; theoretical and romantic.
Saying that, the novel is certainly not for everyone. Durrell’s description and prose frequently become jilted and dull. I recall reading an article where the viewer actually put the book down for that specific reason. Personally, I think Justine is a great book for anyone who is interested in the psychology of love and/or travel literature.