Set amid the corrupt glamour and multiplying intrigues of Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1930s and 1940s, the novels of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (of which this is the first) follow the shifting alliances - sexual, cultural and political - of a group of quite varied characters.
In Justine, an English schoolmaster and struggling writer falls in love with a beautiful and mysterious Jewish woman who is married to a wealthy Egyptian.
As an added bonus, when you purchase any of our Audible Modern Vanguard productions of Lawrence Durrell's books, you'll also get an exclusive Jim Atlas interview added to your library.
In this exclusive interview with AMV host Jim Atlas, Daniel Mendelsohn maps the psychology of Durrell’s Alexandria and explains how this imperial city - uninhibited, tawdry, and multi-cultural - is the "fifth character" in Durrell’s epic masterpiece.
Listen to all four novels in The Alexandria Quartet.
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1957 Lawrence Durrell (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"[Justine] demands comparison with the very best novels of our century." (The New York Times Book Review)
I don't think it is actually better than the print version, but I read that four times over twenty years and love it madly. That said, the audio version with Jack Klaff is quite wonderful. He gets the characters and seems to understand the city and the circumstances better than most. I think his voice works well for this title...and probably the whole quartet as well.
The slow unfolding of the storyline/plot is beautifully handled and neither too fast nor too slow. I love this because there is a sense of leisure and of the Alexandrian baroque in the book. He is right when he says the city is a character...it affects everything that happens and everyone. This story would not have been the same in another city.
Time unfolds and the plot unfolds in a way which is not usually seen in novels. I love the books because there is time to savor what happens and discover what it means to the characters and to me.
Durrell's Alexandra Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea) ranks as one of the seminal works of 20th century English fiction. Although understanding the setting might require a little research for some readers, the depth of these books, dedicated to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, surpass (IMHO) even Ulysses. Jack Klaff's versatile and sensitive narration exceeded expectation.
I'm not sure why the Quartet only ranked as 70th (out of 100) on the NY Times "Best Books of the 20th Century" list; my suspicion is that the usual not-set-in-NY biases were at work. Among the thousands of books I've read, I struggle to remember a novel or set of novels of such stunning beauty, complexity and human understanding.
I really hate leaving negative reviews, but I have just given up on this audiobook after listening for an hour. I have been wanting to read the Alexandria Quartet for years, without ever finding the time, but I just can't listen to this narrator, especially the character voices. It may be a matter of taste. Please listen to a sample before you buy and see if you can take it. Audible.com - please see if you can get a version by another narrator!
This book one of four is considered the best book ever written in the english language. The narrator brings each character to life with voices better than I could have imagined reading it myself. This is the only audio book Ive actually finished after going back over and over to make sure I had not missed anything.
An excellent~~superb book and the narrator is one of the best.
That said i must also inform all those who purchased this title in the few months after it came out in october to ask audible for the version which is now available and is 9 hours 55 minutes and NOT the 8 hour 55 minute one[ only just taken down last week] which is missing part 4 of the book!!!
without the ending one is missing much of the story and would have difficulties continuing with the quartet--which i strongly recommend.
I have loved the Alexandria Quartet for years. Durrell's writing is so beautiful that I thought it would be wonderful to reread the novels in the audio edition. I read the negative reviews of the narrator, but I listen to a lot of audiobooks, love the medium, and am in general able to adapt to the style of any narrator, so I was not deterred. But I actually had to stop listening to Justine, because I find this narrator impossible to listen to. His general reading is fine, but the voices he adopts for the different characters are contrived to the point of being ridiculous. I have tried, but I just can't do it. And this is one of my favorite novels, and one that should be so beautiful to listen to. Such a shame.
pretentious, boring people
Dunno. I don't notice narrators.
All of them.
I suppose that in the 1950s when this book was published an account of a woman who screws around would have been titillating. Now it's just boring. Everyone screws around. Big deal. Apart from that, Justine isn't in any way interesting so the endless gushing about her seems distinctly unmotivated. And the book is, heaven help us, WRITTEN, self-indulgently written, and about the demimond and the literatti. Ho-hum. A period piece, and a deadly, pretentious bore.
I loved this book when I read it many years ago, and I have been looking for the audio book ever since. I was so happy to see it had finally been recorded, and when I heard the sample, Jeff Klaff's voice sounded wonderful in his seemingly natural British accent. However, his acted accents have such strong affectations that I found it painful to listen! He slows down, pauses at very odd moments, and drops his voice an octave making it distractingly hard to understand and listen to. All his Egyptian accents sound as if the person is on their death bed- even the women. It is hard to feel the intense infatuation for Justine that the narrator expresses when she talks in such a ridiculous voice!Sadly, I'm going to need to discontinue listening, and I will not buy the 3 other audiobooks, something I was really looking forward to. Jeff, you have a beautiful voice, have more faith in your own voice and use less affectation, I'd rather hear Justine and the other characters as a softer version of your real voice then the voice you or the director chose for her. It currently sounds like over acting. I'm truly sorry about the negative comments, but I hope that they will serve folks well in the future.
A torrent love affair erupted b/w the damaged Jewish wife of an Egyptian aristocrat and his poor English friend, while the living, breathing city of early 20th century Alexandria injects its exotic mixture of degradation, desires, and philosophical reasoning into each of them. Durrell's prose is smooth as silk and sharp as daggers, his characters studies are forthright and bald on which the none linear plot weaves and slithers unto the pinnacle of writing art form.
Tried it for an hour or two, but couldn't decide whether Justine had emphysema, asthma or just needed metamucil. And if Justine isn't alluring, then what exactly is left? Wasted credit.
This amazing book, the first of four very complex novels, takes us to the heart of Durrell's true love; the Levant. He introduces characters that will appear in all four works. This is a powerful novel where the reader is expected to work.
Although I appreciate the tour de force which is Jack Klaff's reading, it did not 'carry me', this may be because I had already read the work in print and had formed my own internal voice.
The character of Justine is drawn with sympathy and conviction. The engaging mystery is to understand motivation through complex and partial revelation.
To read only Justine is to miss the excitement and richness that awaits us as we move through the three subsequent novels.
"Really struggled with this"
Narration was intensely annoying and inaudible at times because of the use of silly accents. A perfect example of the failings of audiobooks sadly.
Didn't much enjoy the book either. The deliberately poetic prose became irritating before the end of the first chapter. The complete lack of signposting or providing chronology is a fun literary device I'm sure, but coupled with the problematic narration and psueds corner prose, it just added to the chore of listening.
"Return to a classic"
Enjoyed the book and now the audio, was almost put off by a poor review but glad I took the chance.
"Jack Klaff is the best reader yet"
You need to listen to the whole Quartet to appreciate the story - set in Alexandria and dealing with complex personal relationships
The story is compelling and I shall listen to it all over again!
Best reader yet - his range of voices for different characters is exceptional and so true to the story
It is sad, funny, realistic, infuriating - some characters you love and others you want to shake! I love the whole Quartet
Essential to read the whole Quartet
Bearable overall, though the reader is strangely ironic and smug, and does some terrible over the top accents/ voices throughout (some very hard to understand), sounds like he's taking the mick!
"oh dear this is so boring"
This book combines an really awful reader with a very pretentious text. Part of the problem is that the book has a history of being "great", but it's dreadfully outdated. That might be less noticeable if the reading was not so truly awful. I had planned to complete my literary education by listening to the whole series - project abandoned. I made it through to the end through dogged determination and much walking! But you frankly don't care what happend to the characters and it's a huge relief when it was all over.
"Justine is the starter for Four"
This first part of the Alexandria Quartet is superbly read and really brings the characters in the book to life. As a Brit, I would have preferred a British reader, as the author and characters are non-Americans. Nothing racist just looking for authenticity! The language is amazing and this volume certainly makes me want to read the other three in the quartet, have downloaded Balthazar and will definitely buy the other two.
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