Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India, where his engineer father was working on construction of the country’s first railway. The oldest of four children, Durrell was sent back to England at eleven to complete his education. Failing to gain admission to Cambridge, Durrell held a series of brief jobs in London while resolving to become a writer. His first collection of poetry, Quaint Fragment, was published in 1931. His first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers, about life in Bloomsbury, came out in 1935; several sections were inspired by his Indian childhood.
In 1935, Durrell moved with his first wife, his mother and his siblings (including brother Gerald, later to be a major wildlife conservationist) to Corfu, where he wrote his second novel, Panic Spring...Show More »
Because his first novel had sold poorly, this new novel was published under a pseudonym. Durrell’s first novel of note, The Black Book, inspired by his friendship with Henry Miller, was regarded as pornographic at the time, and was turned down by English publishers before finally finding a publisher in France; it then won the praise of T. S. Eliot.
Durrell moved to France in 1957, and published the first volume of the “Alexandria Quartet,” which would become his most well-known cycle of novels. Set in the Egyptian city and concerned with the same group of characters during the 1930s and 1940s, but told from different points of view, the four books, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea, came out in quick succession. The sensuous, exotic quartet was a commercial and critical success, and established Durrell as an author of stature. Durrell published several other subsequent works, but none achieved the same degree of popular or critical success. Durrell’s Collected Poetry was published in 1980. Durrell married two more times and lived in Provence until his death in 1990, the same year his final work, Caesar’s Vast Ghost, about the region, appeared.