In Balthazar, the second volume in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, the story and the characters come more clearly into focus. Darley, the reflective Englishman, receives from Balthazar, the pathologist, a mass of notes which attempt to explain what really happened between the tempestuous Justine, her husband Nessim, Clea the artist, and Pursewarden the writer.
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Listen to all four novels in The Alexandria Quartet.
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"Lawrence Durrell's Justine was certainly one of the finest novels of the last ten years. If anything, Balthazar is more convincing... Durrell is moving up, onto the highest levels of the novelist's art." (The Nation)
A new layer of history, interpersonal intricacies, told through another point of view, was added to the characters of Justine, while the persona of the city Alexandria and theme of love and desires permeates and ferments like aged wines. Durrell's masterly prose is further enriched by germinating characters and maturing plots.
A fascinating story, made easier by being read, as it was hard to read oneself in cold blood. The narrator has a very good way of differentiating between the characters and bringing them to some sort of life.
This is the second novel in the quartet. It does not carry on from Justine but challenges the assumptions of that first book. Darley, the story teller, sends the manuscript which we know as Justine to Balthazar, a doctor with a great interest in the Cabala. And it is Balthazar who has diligently examined the bundle of papers and written extensive notes which bring to the recorded events a new aspect and further information.
It is in this book that the successful writer Purswarden emerges as an enigmatic actor in the drama. We have another element in which Durrell can explore the process of creativity and its cost. None of this is boring. For the vitality, colour and humour of the writing took me on my own journey of reminiscence.
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