Having only been fleetingly aware of Durrell's famous 'Alexandria Quartet',
I approached 'Justine' with a certain amount of trepidation but was happily,
quite thrilled by the sensuous and evocative prose that permeates this hotly
vivacious story. For a start, Nigel Anthony is the ideal storyteller, his
dry nasal voice conjures images of the ecstatic and forlorn longing that
is ever present in these nerve wracked pages.
'Justine' is a Jewish girl of dubious past and we also explore the character
of 'Naseem', her husband with intimate depth. There is also a constant current
of foreboding running through the story as the author rambles and forages
for explanations that can never be fully understood. Durrell's narrative
is plain and matter-of-fact, he does not care for using sexually explicit
text, indeed this comes alive marvelously in Anthony's voice. However Elizabeth
Bradbury has judiciously abridged the text with consummate care and also
provides the short but informative note.
Darley (who is the narrator) enjoys wild nights, intense discussion and exotica
with Naseem and Justine, indeed he becomes obsessed he her heartlessness,
and he is also compelled by some irresistible force to adore Justine for
her heartlessness. All these binges and wild episodes are narrated in the
atmosphere of Alexandria, a city of the mighty and the lowly, of nobility
and beggars, of social contrasts and cruelty, also of madness. The music
has been chosen to add to the aromas of intensity with Ravel and Debussy
mainly on the agenda. It's on to 'Balthasar' now!