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February 13, 1967 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1967-02-13
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7

A Strange Lozenge -Shaped Affair

Sauve Qui Peut, by Lawrence Dur-
rell. E. P. Dutton & Co. $3.50.
Lawrence Durrell's facility with
language was obvious from the
start. And now that the deification
of The Alexandria Quartet is nearly
complete, Durrell is free to play.
His reputation is secure enough; he
is no longer obligated to be pro-
found or boring, sexy or "in." This
new little book of stories is there-
fore striking for its lack of preten-
sion. It makes no attempt at Sal-
ingerian "sincerity," nor at Goldin-
gian "social comment." Its humor is
never "black." But is is very funny.
And those readers who must find
social comment, sex or sincerity in
their fiction will find them here-
not, however, in the form of a
sticky, synthetic frosting. This lily
ain't gilt; Nat Hentoff would find it
a bore. I can think of no better
recommendation.
The nine stories are told in the
first person by Antrobus-a highly
educated caveman He is a carica-
ture of the minor official in the
British foreign service who has im-
peccable manners, the training "to
be equal to any emergency almost,"
the characteristic obtuseness asso-
ciated with English butlers in old
movies, and no sanity whatever. He
is a gentleman.

Durrell's technique is to build
Antrobus's stories by creating rich
patterns of detail. There seem to be
few "stories" in the conventional
sense of the word, but actually
there is a variety of them under'
each title. In "Seraglios and Im-
broglios," for example, there is no
real plot; the story consists of a se-
ries of anecdotes, each funnier than
the preceding one, and the whole
forming a structure which ultimate-
ly focuses on a kind of sterile sexu-
ality and absurd religion: "like
when Polk-Mowbray decided to
build a Marxist chapel in the Em-
bassy grounds to try and wean
everyone from ~Barren
Materialism. . . .The style was sort
of Primrose Hill Wesleyan." The
entire story has something of a mo-
saic effect, but it has a greater uni-
ty, it is more dazzling, and the
pieces interpenetrate. The collec-
tion is something like those weirdly
exaggerated models of cells at
the Museum of Science and
Industry-grotesque and beautiful
and unbelievable. There is some-
thing inherently comic in the style
of the things.
Everything about these stores-
s i t u a t i o n s, names, characters,
plots-is improbable. But Durrell
succeeds in building a private world
of diplomatic nonsense, justified by

The Twain Shall Meet

(continued from page one)
But all these complaints arise
from what seems to me to be a cen-
t r a 1 "unconsciousness" in Two
Views. The details of plot and char-
acter are disgorged from rather
than assimilated into the living
body of the book. Symbols, such as
a lost sports-car and the Berlin wall
itself, seem to slip, without recogni-
tion, through the fingers of the au-
thor. Even obvious dualities in the
book's structure - two Germanies,
two lovers as equal protagonists,
the opposition of town and country-
side - these are rarely extended to
the point of artistry.
This same unconsciousness is ex-
pressed in the psychology of the
central characters - A Pyramis
and Thisbe faced with their own
"cursed wall." But the Eastern
nurse Beate and the Western Pho-
tocrapher Dietbert are a most hesi-
tant pair of lovers. They have slept
together. but not often, and spent
remarkably little time together
while it was politically permitted.
Only when their separation is en-
forced do Beate and Dietbert tum-
ble into the business of loving one
another. It is a love constructed by
casting them into the classic roles
of masculinity and femininity. She
becomes passive, a damsel much
distressed, only when the wall is
built to surpress her native activity
and independence. He, in turn,
looks on the Berlin wall as a chival-
ric challenge. They are lovers only

when a vast "order of things" de-
fines them as such. Friends who be-
moan the grief Dietbert feels on his
separation are the actual cause of
his affection. The lovers are "little
people," but they are anti-heroes
without perception of either the he-
roic or the void. There is no scath-
ing sense of absurdity which com-
pels their action, only a mild dis-
comfort. In the end, Beate's escape
is accomplished with a healthy
sense of functional success, while
Dietbert receives a senseless and
ineffective punishment for his own
sense of impotency.
Not until page 180, of this 183
page book, is the narrator revealed
as particular and individual. This
late introduction of the persona is
so clumsy that I wonder if Two
Views is based upon "actual experi-
ence." The author states Beate's
command, "But you must make up
everything you write!" To this, the
author replies, "It is made up." Per-
haps. But it is certainly not "made
up" enough. Uwe Johnson has halt-
ed along the path of imagination
leading to creative fiction, yet has
not maintained the artistic indiffer-
ence of the cinema verite. Like too
much curret American fiction,
Two Views is trapped by material
detail without a strong commitment
to either fiction or fact.
Elizabeth Wissman
Miss Wissman is a fourth-year student
majoring in English at The University
of Michigan.

the fact that "a dip's life is never as
clear cut as the Wars of the Roses,"
which has a logic of its own. His
primary unifying device is the char-
acter of Antrobus. And in spite of
the fact that Antrobus is a carica-
ture, Durrell is able to make him
seem real. In the first story, for ex-
ample, the Kurdish Embassy (an
"up-and-coming little country with
a rapidly declining economy") in-
vites the British to a "joyful" cir-
cumcision ceremony. Antrobus de-
scribes their collective response:
You can imagine the long slow wail
that went up in the Chancery when
first this intelligence was brought
home to us. Circumcision! Joyfully!
Refreshments! "By God, here is a
strange lozenge-shaped affa ir"
cried De Mandeville, and he was
right.
Everything is seen through Antro-
bus's unlikely eyes; and as he grad-
ually comes alive, as detail is added
to detail, as his absurdity becomes
consistent, the other characters and
the events themselves become be-
lievable. Not that the character de-
scriptions lack much:
You remember Drage? Of course
you do. Yes, here we are truly in
the field of Revealed Religion. All
that winter the Visions had been
gaining on him, the Voices ad
been whispering seditious info. into
his faun-like ears . . . . Finally
Dragehwas forced to ask for relig-
ious help from the leader of his
s e c t-a Nonconformist preacher
called Fly-Fornication Wilkinson.
He was a tall spindly man with a
goatee and huge goggles. . . . We
could all see that the fellow had a
mushroom-shaped p s y c h e. His
voice was deep and boomy with an
occasional scream like a police
whistle on.,the word "sin" which
made one sit up and metaphorical-
ly spurn the gravel with one's
hooves.
Durrell's humor in these stories
ranges from quiet wit to Chaplines-
que slapstick. In "What-ho on the
Rialto," Antrobus tells of the effect
of a female ambassador (from
France of course) on his colleague
De Mandeville and on the Italian
Head of Chancery, "Bonzo di Por-
co":
She flattered Bonzo, making him
show off his talents where some-
one more intelligent might have
persuaded him to leave them in
the napkin. He played, for ex-
ample, the flute better, louder than
De Mandeville. His pout was pro-
fessional, his puff serene and not
wavery like that of his rival. Apart
from this, he played a blazing
game of shuttlecock. He had ac-
tually once had leprosy....
The story reaches its high point in a
free-for-all Laurel and Hardy me-
lee, complete with swords and cos-
tumes. Finally, the lady goes to
Russia, where "she liked the place,
the people, and the system so much
that she had herself nationalized
and married a collective farm."
It is a complete gas to find a writ-
er who is able to continue experi-
menting without becoming, at
the same time, "w h a t's
happening". . .baby. These stories
are not great-they were not meant
to be-but they are all good. And it
is amusing to think that Durrell can
write potboilers better than, say, S.

J. Perelman's latest pieces in the
New Yorker. I imagine Durreil
reading all the magazines, and then
s e n d i n g them just the right
stories-with prices attached. "A
Corking Evening," of course, goes
to Playboy. "What-ho on the Rial-
to," fun for women, goes to Mad-
emoiselle, "The Little Affair in
Paris," which is about nothing in
particular, goes to The Saturday
Evening Post. It is as if Pursewar-
den, with characteristic absurdity,
had outlived his own suicide,
changed his name, and set out to
write his memoirs. Of course, this is
not so much Pursewarden as a sort
of diplomaticized version of him,
and his motives are not so much lit-
erary as they are an extension of
the art of diplomacy. The put-on is
valued for its own sake; the art of
being a gentleman is valued above
all others. And a gentleman's first
requirement is cash: thus the book.
But the book surpasses the quali-
ty of magazine comedy, mainly be-
cause of a certain feeling of "multi-
ple personality" that permeates all
of Durrell's work-a feeling which
seems to-require a similar multiple
response from his readers. Sauve
Qui Peut is obviously not Durrell's
best work, but it would be a mistake
to measure a book of light comedy
by the standards of Durrell's most
complex novels. And still the book
fits rather neatly into an opus
which becomes more attractive with
each new addition. There may be
"plenty more where it came from"
as De Mandeville says of his labori-
ously gathered morning dew, but
that does not make it any less worth
having. The book is one of those
Jamesian "pleasant hours," which is
complete in itself, but is at the same
time only part of Durrell's larger
and infinitely more important work.
Michael I. Miller
Mr. Miller is a fourth-year student ma-
joring in English at Roosevelt Univer-
sity.
The Midwest Literary Review

PAPERBACK PLAYBACK

The midwinter slump is upon
paperback publishers, qualitatively
if not quantitatively; one wonders
who writes, and who reads much of
the bus-station trivia churned out.
Several books of merit, however,
can be gleaned from the generally
undistinguished recent offerings.
Among the reprints of important
novels are John Fowles' strange
and obscure The Magus (Dell); In
Cold Blood (Signet), the much-
touted "non-fiction novel" by Tru-
man Capote; The Saddest Summer
of Samuel S, by J. P. Donleavy
(Dell), which narrates in the manner
of The Ginger Man the problems of a
writer 'n his fifth year of psychoanal-
ysc; and Peter Mattheisen's At
Play in th" nields of the Lord (New
Amer- qT Library), a sensitive ac-
count of missionaries in Africa. Far
From the City of Class (Pocket
Books) is a collection of bizarrely
humorous short stories by Bruce
Jay Friedman, author of A Moth-
er's Kisses. The Greatest Thing
Since Sliced Bread by Don Robert-
son (Fawcett Crest) cutely combines
Salinger and suspense in describing

All Books Reviewed in This Issue Of The Midwest Literar
available At The UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO BOOKST(

a day in the life of Morris Bird III,
age nine, and Signet has issued in
one volume Beatle John Lennon's
agile concoctions, In His Own
Write and A Spaniard in the Works.
In the field of literary criticism,
NYU Press has published Erika
Ostrovsky's Celine and His Vision,
an exploration of the dark and em-
bittered psyche of the author of
Voyage to the End of Night and
Death on the Installment Plan. Can-
did critic Susan Sontag's Against
Interpretation (Dell) e x a m i n e s
camp, contemporary theater and
the French intellegentsia.
Bantam's Supernatural Horror
Series offers nine volumes of har-
rowing stories with appropriately
hideous covers, including a book of
witches, warlocks and werewolves
by Rod Serling. Devotees of flam-
bovant morbidity will also enjoy
their Gothic Novels Series. Sample
titles: Wake Up Screaming, Unholy
Trinity, Sleep No More.
Malcolm X Speaks (Grove) pre-
sents the late Muslim's speeches, in-
terviews and letters in a companion
volume to his a ut obio g ra ph y.

Strange Communists I Have
Known, by Bertram Wolfe (Ban-
tam), studies ten recalcitrant Marx-
ists, including Leon Trotsky and
Rosa Luxemburg. Relations be-
tween the NAACP and the Com-
munist Party are analyzed by Wil-
liam Record in Race and Radical-
ism.
Designed to offend whatever
original spirits fled thither (and
thereby to contribute to commer-
cializing the area) is John Gruen's
The New Bohemia (Grosset and
Dunlap), about the East Village,
with photographs. Lu Emily Pear-
son discusses the domestic life and
attitudes of another cultural group
in Elizabethans At Home (Stanford),
also with contemporary documenta-
tion. Kenneth Keniston's The Un-
committed: Alienated Youth in
American Society (Dell), relates re-
search conducted with Harvard stu-
dents in sundry existential dilem-
mas.
There are several exciting new
books of poetry in paperback.
Grooks (M.I.T.), the haiku-like verse
created by Danish poet Piet Hein,
has been translated into English for
the first time. Y e v g e n y
Yevtushenko's Bratsk Station and
Other New Poems (Anchor) contains
the title epic and recent lyrics,
some bombastic, some sparkling.
The Complete Poetry of Cavafy
translated by Rae Dalven (Harvest),
presents the sensual wisdom of the
Poet of Alexandria. The Modern
Hebrew Poem Itself, edited by Stan-

lev BurnshW
Folio), is a
the materia
tions, and
notes. The
Thomas HE
lected Shor
and in Sele
duced by Jc
Eric Ben
general inti
tled The I
heneum).
Holloway
"classics"
"Amrican
Hill's"-Th
ton t"planta
and Grush
Womanr(s
Russia.")
The late
Bruce's Ho
fluence Peo
timately in
ond volume
another tor
creative, n
berg's A Mv
chor). Niko
cent, tumul
has been re
tion.
These sel
typical; mt
have been
Thousand Ii
and Four
Your Baby.

Editors: ...... .

Edward W. Hearne
Bryan R. Dunlap

Violette Leduc - The Women with the Little Fox
Studs Terkel - Division Street: America
Etienne Gilson - Forms and Substances in the Arts
Marguerite Duras - The Ravishing of Lol Stein
Frank Elli - The Riot
W. H. Lewis - Letters of C.S. Lewis
Arvarh E. Strickland - The Chicago Urban League
Kenneth Burke - Language as Symbolic Action

$ 49$4 9493.9 . 59$ . 1.

Midwest Editor: ...... Liz Wissman
Advertising Manager: Wayne Meyer
Art Editor .....-.Bob Griess
Lake Forest Editor: ..J. Greg Gerdel
Loyola Editor: ........ Bill Clohesy

Roosevelt Editor: . M

Mika Millor

Valparaiso Editor: .. Janet Karsten
Wooster Editor.Don Kennedy
Editorial Staff: Gretchen Wood
Mary Sue Leighton
Ellen Williams
The Midwest Literary Review, circulation
45,000O, is published six times per year. It
is distributed by the Michigan Daily, the
Chicago Maroon, the Wooster Voice, the
Illinois Teacher's College (South Campus)
Tempo, the Lake Forest Stentor and the
Valparaiso, Torch. Reprint rights have been
granted to the Roosevelt Torch and the
Loyola News. Editorial offices: 1112 E. 59th
Street, Chicago, Illinois 8637. Subscrip-
tions: $2.50 per year. Copyright 0 1967 by
The Midwest Literary Review. All rights
reserved.

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2 MIDWEST LITERARY REVIEW " February, 1967

February, 1967 MIDWEST LITERAR'

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