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Justine (Alexandria Quartet) Paperback – July 12, 1991

206 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Alexandria Quartet Series

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S., conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand, and it is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India. He attended the Jesuit College at Darjeeling and St Edmund's School, Canterbury. His first literary work, The Black Book, appeared in Paris in 1938. His first collection of poems, A Private Country, was published in 1943, followed by the three Island books: Prospero's Cell, Reflections on a Marine Venus, about Rhodes, and Bitter Lemons, his account of life in Cyprus. Durrell's wartime sojourn in Egypt led to his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, which he completed in southern France where he settled permanently in 1957. Between the Quartet and The Avignon Quintet he wrote the two-decker Tunc and Nunquam. His oeuvre includes plays, a book of criticism, translations, travel writing, and humorous stories about the diplomatic corps. Caesar's Vast Ghost, his reflections on the history and culture of Provence, including a late flowering of poems, appeared a few days before his death in Sommieres in 1990. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

[Editor's Note: The following is a combined review with BALTHAZAR, MOUNTOLIVE, and CLEA.]--The four linked novels that comprise English author Lawrence Durrell's masterpiece, THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET, are set in Alexandria, Egypt, around the time of WWII. The four novels explore the city's polyglot society, full of intrigue, mystery, and sensuality, telling essentially the same story from different points of view. JUSTINE focuses on the beautiful Jewish wife of a wealthy Copt. Her story is told by Darley, her English lover. In BALTHAZAR, Darley reconsiders and retells the story he told in Justine, using information from a mysterious new character, Balthazar. In MOUNTOLIVE, as war begins to loom, British Ambassador David Mountolive enters the intrigues of the interwoven community of characters. In CLEA, Darley returns to a war-fevered Alexandria as the stories of the many characters move toward conclusion. Narrator Nigel Anthony provides a brilliant reading, keeping the variety of voices--English, French, Egyptian--distinct throughout. He offers a one-man play, conveying the passions, disappointments, and triumphs of the complex cast. The classical music interludes that delineate sections of this beautifully produced and packaged set help transport the listener to back- streets of Alexandria. R.E.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Alexandria Quartet
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (July 12, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140153195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140153194
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Jalandhar, British India, in 1912 to Indian-born British colonials, Lawrence Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for the Alexandria Quartet novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell's prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose first novel, Monsieur (1974), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and whose third novel, Constance (1982), was nominated for the Booker Prize. He also penned the celebrated travel memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (1957), which won the Duff Cooper Prize. Durrell corresponded with author Henry Miller for forty-five years, and Miller influenced much of his early work, including a provocative and controversial novel, The Black Book (1938). Durrell died in France in 1990.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Big Bad John on September 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would have to be a far better writer than I am to do justice to a work like this, and it seems distinctly odd to be writing only the second review of this classic for Amazon. I first read it as a teen and missed nearly everything there was to delight me as a grownup. This is not a book for those who like linear literature or concise prose.

Durrell's prose is some of the lushest in my acquaintance. Almost every chapter begins with a word-picture that sucked me in and seduced me with a strong sense of place. Throughout the work, there are phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that jump off the page and insist on being read aloud to whoever is nearby.

His characters are colorful and deep, but their depths are not accessible at a glance any more than with real people. Durrell used a fascinating technique that reminds me of Pointilism and Cubism combined. He puts thousands of dots of color on the canvas until you begin to see a picture in depth. But just when you think you've got it, he shifts perspective and you see new dimensions in the characters that were unsuspected by narrator and reader alike.

The adjective "painterly" occurs to me in connection with Durrell, as in 'This is a writerly book!' It connects with literature as diverse as Cavafy, Forster, Parachelsus, de Sade, Freud, and traditional Arab folklore, and echoes of Durrell are heard in works by the generations of writers who followed him. Also it is a book for writers and for artists of all stripes, as many of its characters are aspiring, successful, or failed artists.

This is also a study of "love" in all its forms. Of sexual entanglements there are plenty: incest, rape, prostitution, May-December romance, and adultery by the carload...
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144 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Critical "I" on June 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
First of all let me say that "The Alexandria Quartet" was one of the most moving books I've ever read, when I read it years ago, and so I was looking forward to putting it on my Kindle to have it to read over what is promising to be a really hot summer here in Chicago (this book really reads well during hot weather, I think).

Here's the problem. In the first page or three of the actual book, Durrell throws in a note. It is marked with an asterisk, and you have to turn to about the last page of the book to read the note. On the next page, Durrell does the same thing, an asterisk, and off you go to the back of the book again. There are around ten such notes in the first book "Justine". They are all on a page of notes and referenced by the page number on which the asterisk occurs. This is not a great way to do footnotes (end notes, really) but it works if there aren't a lot of them. However, whoever created this Kindle edition didn't make the footnotes active. DOH! AND there is no active table of contents. DOH! again! That means the reader is going to have to figure out by trial and error where the notes occur. Now, if you have bought each book seperately. This is a minor hassle (although I would argue there shouldn't be ANY hassle when you are paying full price for a Kindle book). You just use the menu to "go to the end" and then page backward until you hit the notes. BUT, if you have bought the one volume edition, does this approach still work? Or do you have to hunt for the one quarter mark of the whole thing and then hunt around some more to find the end of Justine, and then hunt around some more for the notes page? No way do I have time and patience for that.

It may just be me, but it seems to me that if a publisher is going to charge almost $14.
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275 of 299 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This quartet is a frustrating mixture of wonderful writing and boring passages. I read it once a decade ago and a second time recently. To decide whether you'll like it, consider the following.
Structure: Durrell is writing spatially as well as sequentially. The first book, Justine, leaves gaps in the reader's knowledge to reflect the gaps in the narrator's knowledge. The second book, Balthazar, retraces the same material and fills in some of the gaps as the narrator learns more. The third book, Mountolive, tells the story in the form of a traditional novel (third person) and fills in most of the gaps. The fourth book, Clea, is set later in time; it once again leaves gaps to reflect what the narrator doesn't know. This is a fascinating approach, but to enjoy it, you must be willing to endure unanswered questions that reflect the narrator's lack of knowledge (including some, in Clea, that will never be answered).
Introspection: The characters spend a great deal of time looking within themselves, trying to understand their motives and desires. This can be interesting to those who like psychology. But the characters spend so much time introspecting that it becomes annoying. They are so self-centered, so hung up on everything they themselves do and wondering why they do it, that after a while one longs for a character who is more interested in someone else than in him/herself, more interested in action than in endless thought.
Style: Durrell is a wonderful wordsmith. Some of his sentences will stay with you for a long time. And he paints vivid word pictures of Alexandria. But that is also a problem: he paints, and paints, and paints.
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