|Sotheby's on New Bond Street.|
I thought I had seen every stage in Durrell's writing of Justine, starting with the notebook he called Notes for Alex, begun in Alexandria in 1944 - though one could go back before that, to a 1938 notebook written up in London, his originally intended setting for what he was then calling The Book of the Dead, set in Bloomsbury specifically.
I also thought I had seen the final working typescript of Justine, a typed-out version of the novel on which Durrell added some hand-written notes and from which a clean typescript would have been produced and handed over to Faber and Faber, his publisher. So what was this so-called final typescript about? I had to go and see.
|A page of the so-called final typescript with Durrell's handwritten alterations, early 1956.|
If you look at the top paragraph of the typescript and count nine lines down you come to the sentence which originally read, 'They lay together for a long time in trembling silence'. Durrell alters that in red ink, so that it now reads, 'They lay together for a long time in perfect silence seeking through the darkness of their feelings for the way forward'. And that is exactly as that sentence appears in the first edition of Justine (see the top of page 205 below).
|The corresponding part of Justine, first Faber edition 1957.|
Therefore Sotheby's is mistaken in describing this as the final typescript of Justine. A simple comparison of the typescript with the published novel would have revealed that.
The carelessness does not end there. The Sotheby's catalogue describes the typescript as 'seemingly lacking six leaves'. But the typescript ends just before the duck shoot when there are still another forty pages of the published novel to come; 'lacking sixty leaves' would more accurately have described the typescript.
All the same, the truncated typescript being auctioned tomorrow is a valuable document because it allows anyone studying how Durrell composed Justine to see yet another stage that he went through.
In fact one of the most remarkable things about Durrell's composition of Justine is how much of the shaping took place in the last stages, as here in the typescript being auctioned by Sotheby's, and that so many of the most memorable lines and passages were composed at almost the last moment, written in by hand onto the final working typescript held by the British Library.