Monday, 13 May 2019

What the Durrells Did Next

You can also find out what the Durrells did next by reading this book.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

End of the Durrells' Corfu Idyll

Corfu town bombed by the Italians in 1941.
The Mirror has run a story on the terrible end of the Durrells' Corfu idyll when the island was devastated by war and some of the family fled for their lives.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Fascists in Corfu

Corfu fascist parade 1933.
The Durrells went to Corfu in 1935, where they seemed able to ignore the darkening political situation in Europe. But judging from this photograph there was already a fascist movement in Corfu two years before the Durrell family arrived.

What I do not know is to what extent this was an indigenous Greek movement or a purely Italian-Corfiot one.  Corfu was long ruled by Venice and Italian influence remained strong.  Italian was the lingua franca of Corfu well into the nineteenth century and the island had an Italian community right up to the Second World War.  Mussolini used this historical connection to twice justify his occupation of Corfu, once briefly in 1923, again in 1941.

Certainly Corfiots courageously protested against the second occupation, a rare thing in Europe at the time, and the island provided the beginnings of the Greek resistance against the 1941-1945 Italian and German occupations of Greece.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Templars in Turkish

The Templars: History and Myth will be published in Turkey by Kronik
of Istanbul.

This will be the seventh language for this book.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Durrells in Greek

The family photograph at the top was Gerry's favourite.
The Durrells of Corfu has been translated into Greek and published by Patakis in Athens. The cover shows the Durrells' villa at Sotiriotissa and the family on the terrace: Margo, Nancy, Larry, Gerry and Louisa.  Leslie took the photograph.

At the end of the summer of 1935 the Durrells moved from the Strawberry-Pink Villa at Perama to the Villa Anemoyanni. This was Gerry’s Daffodil-Yellow Villa near Kontokali, at Sotiriotissa, about five miles along the coast road north of Corfu town.

Standing on the side of a hill rising out of the sea, the Daffodil-Yellow Villa was an enormous and neglected Venetian mansion four storeys high, set amidst extensive grounds, overgrown and almost wild, with unkept orange and lemon orchards and olive groves, and with melancholy cypresses and stout arbutus heavy with ripening berries. 

Facing the sea was a stone-paved terrace shaded with a trellis of vines and evergreens from where terraced gardens and a Venetian stairway descended to a wooden jetty projecting from the shore.  A couple of small islands shimmered in the channel and in the distance loomed the hills of mainland Greece and Albania.  To the left was Gouvia Bay, a smooth sheet of water used as a landing place for seaplanes, and beyond that the high hills shouldering Pantocrator, the highest mountain on the island.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Clea Badaro in Australia

Durrell named the fourth volume of his Alexandria Quartet after Clea Badaro.
Recently Simon Parow of Melbourne got in touch, showing me this charcoal on paper drawing by Clea Badaro he picked up at a Sunday market about ten years ago.  The seller told him it was by an Egyptian artist and that is all Simon ever knew.  'I bought it because I liked it.'  

Searching online he found this post of mine which told him something more. 

I have also told Simon about Clea Badaro, 1913-1968: sa vie, son oeuvre, by her sister Jeanne Engalytcheff-Badaro.

And I cover her in my book Alexandria: City of Memory, her studio at the Ambron villa, her connection with the Atelier, her acquaintance with Durrell, and comments from my interviews with some people who knew her.  

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Mountolive at Lisbon Airport

Still flying high: Mountolive, the third volume of The Alexandria Quartet,
for sale on a Lisbon airport book rack.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Early February London Snow

The recent fall of snow in London was photographed by a friend, not the usual view from the streets but over the city's hidden gardens.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Postcards of the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition

In a previous post about the origins of the London area called White City I mentioned some postcards I had come across of the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition.  Here they are.

Monday, 31 December 2018

White City


Several times in The Alexandria Quartet Lawrence Durrell describes Alexandria as the ‘white city’ as in this excerpt from the third volume Mountolive.

A sea-wind chaffered and tugged at the sea-limits of the estuary. Higher still roamed packages of smoking, blood-stained cloud throwing down a strange radiance into the streets and squares of the white city. Rain was a rare and brief winter phenomenon in Alexandria.

Ibrahim Abdel Meguid does the  same in his novel No One Sleeps in Alexandria.

In the evening he told Magd al-Din about the city where he had spent all that time, white Alexandria, where foreigners from all over the world and poor Egyptians from all over the land went.

Alexandria’s whiteness is in contrast to the dustiness of Cairo, a city blown by desert winds, shrouded in sand,  whereas Alexandria glistens with salt crystals from the evening breezes off the sea. 

Which made me think of other cities called white.  Tel Aviv for example and Nicosia which in Greek is called Lefkosia, literally the White Place.

But what about that part of my own city that I never think about at all nor do I ever go there?  That rundown area shoved up against Shepherd’s Bush and amputated from Holland Park and the heart of London by a motorway.  How did White City get its name?

Only recently, seeing a set of striking postcard scenes of the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition celebrating the new alliance between the countries did I understand. 

The 1908 Franco-British Exhibition.

The exhibition is indeed a fabulous white city.  And the name was further popularised when the Olympic Games were held next door in the same year.  The 1908 Olympics were meant to be held in Rome but the explosion of Vesuvius caused the Italians to direct their attention to the devastation round the Bay of Naples.  Runner-up London quickly stepped in, a running track was built, and the Olympics and the Franco-British Exhibition ran side by side at what was now indelibly called White City.

1908 White City Marathon.
The exhibition was torn down and the Olympic track given over to dog racing.  Then the motorway finished it off.  But not quite because the BBC built a hideous television studio there which I gather is now protected as a national treasure, and a vast shopping centre has been erected there.  I gather it is even quite trendy to live in White City these days.

BBC Television Studios.

Maybe I should jump on the 31 bus and take a look.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Saturday, 15 December 2018

The Durrells in Poland

My book The Durrells of Corfu has now been translated into Polish as Durrellowie z Korfu and published in Warsaw by Noir sur Blanc.

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Durrells in Estonia

Durrellid Korful

The Durrells of Corfu has now been published as Durrellid Korful in Estonia by Eesti Raamat

Can Latvia and Lithuania be far behind?

See also the original English-language edition.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Hotel Cecil in London and Alexandria

About London's Cecil from today's Telegraph:

'One of the best contemporary descriptions can be found in Nathaniel Newnham-Davis’s 1914 book, The Gourmet’s Guide to London
'He explains how the bustling courtyard at the Hotel Cecil’s entrance, known as “The Beach”, was a popular hangout for American guests who preferred it to the gilded parlours within. “The most American spot in London” was filled with cane chairs, piles of luggage, a newspaper stall, and “in the summer-time pretty girls sunning themselves and waiters hurrying to and fro with cold drinks and long straws”.'

See here for more of this article in The Telegraph.
And see here for the Cecil in Alexandria.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Alexia Stephanides Mercouri Who Shared the Magic of Corfu with the Durrells

Gerry, Roger and Alexia at the Daffodil Yellow Villa c1936.

Alexia Mercouri, the daughter of Theodore Stephanides, died on Sunday, 28 October, in Athens.  The funeral will be at the Proto Nekrotafeion Athinon on Friday, 2 November, at 3pm.

Alexia was Gerry Durrell's closest friend in Corfu and shared the enchantment of what she called 'another world'. She was a lovely lady and remained a delight throughout her life.

Click on this link for more about Alexia.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Bloomsbury and Alexandria

Siegfried Sassoon; Leopold Hamilton Myers; Hon. Robert Gathorne-Hardy; Jean de Menasce; James Stephens: a leaf from Lady Ottoline Morrell's photograph album.  The snapshot was probably taken in the garden of her home in Gower Street, London

See how Jean de Menasce has something to do with Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Alexander the Great Founds Alexandria, 331 BC

Alexander the Great Founds Alexandria, 331 BC
Plutarch, late first century AD
[adapted from: Plutarch, Alexander, Lives, Vol. VII, Loeb Classical Library translated by Bernadotte Perrin Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1919.]
- from An Alexandria Anthology
edited by Michael Haag

The Persians overran the Middle East, including Egypt, and twice attempted to invade Greece but were repulsed.  Alexander the Great launched a counterattack, and in 331 BC, after driving the Persians out of Egypt, he founded a new city on the Mediterranean shore. 

After his conquest of Egypt, Alexander wished to found a large and populous Greek city which should bear his name, and by the advice of his architects was on the point of measuring off and enclosing a certain site for it. Then, in the night, as he lay asleep, he saw a wonderful vision. A man with very hoary locks and of a venerable aspect appeared to stand by his side and recite these lines from Homer’s Odyssey –

There is an island in the surging sea, which they call Pharos, lying off Egypt.  It has a harbour with good anchorage, and hence they put out to sea after drawing water.

Accordingly, he rose up at once and went to Pharos, which at that time was still an island, a little above the Canopic mouth of the Nile, but now it has been joined to the mainland by a causeway. And when he saw a site of surpassing natural advantages (for it is a strip of land like enough to a broad isthmus, extending between a great lagoon and a stretch of sea which terminates in a large harbour), he said he saw now that Homer was not only admirable in other ways, but also a very wise architect, and ordered the plan of the city to be drawn in conformity with this site.

There was no chalk at hand, so they took barley-meal and marked out with it on the dark soil a rounded area, to whose inner arc straight lines extended so as to produce the figure of a chlamys, or military cloak, the lines beginning from the skirts (as one may say), and narrowing the breadth of the area uniformly. The king was delighted with the design; but suddenly birds from the river and the lagoon, infinite in number and of every sort and size, settled down upon the place like clouds and devoured every particle of the barley-meal, so that even Alexander was greatly disturbed at the omen. However, the seers exhorted him to be of good cheer, since the city here founded by him would have most abundant and helpful resources and be a nursing mother for men of every nation, and so he ordered those in charge of the work to proceed with it.