Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Alexandrie

Alexandrie restaurant promotional card.
I discovered the other day that a restaurant previously called Aladino's has changed its name to Alexandrie.

The restaurant explains its transformation: 'Unique in London, Alexandrie's stylish restaurant in Kensington offers its brand of fine Alexandrian cuisine, conveying the marriage of flavours by the most cosmopolitan city from antiquity to recent times.


As recently as 1953 when you might see Sophia Loren hanging out a window overlooking the Corniche. That was the year she was in Egypt filming Aida in which she played the title role.


As long as the restaurant remains as out of date as this photograph it should do well.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Man who Mistook his Holiday for a Hat

No, not eating from a trough.
I received this postcard yesterday. It dates from the 1920s when it was de rigueur to wear a hat while viewing the Underwater Gardens at Catalina off the coast of California.  Those were the days, you might think.

Today people still go to Catalina to peep underwater and they still wear hats.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Justine

New paperback Justine published 2017

Today, sixty years after the publication of Lawrence Durrell's Justine, Faber and Faber have published a paperback edition in a cover that is a reminder of the first edition - a child's handprint, so familiar on the walls of Egypt, to avert the Evil Eye.


Durrell's photograph of Eve in a mirror,
Alexandria 1943.
A line from Justine runs along the bottom of the cover.  'I have been thinking about the girl I met last night in the mirror ...'  The line is given in full on page 59: 'I have been thinking about the girl I met last night in the mirror: dark on marble-ivory white: glossy black hair: deep suspiring eyes in which one’s glances sink because they are nervous, curious, turned to sexual curiosity'. This is Justine, seen in a mirror in the gaunt vestibule of the Hotel Cecil, and in whom I recognise Eve Cohen, Durrell's second wife.

There is a brief and reassuring forward by Victoria Hislop, who describes herself on her website as the 'multimillion-copy bestselling author' of popular novels set in the Mediterranean. Justine has a modernist flavour, she writes, and must have tested readers when it was first published in 1957, but 'You do not stop to ask "why?" or "when?" but instead follow the compelling narrative flow'. 


First edition of Justine, 1957.

Your reward is Durrell's remarkable writing, his portrait of a vanished exotic city 'described with a vividness and clarity that invades the reader's every sense', and most of all his 'honest exploration of love'. 'Here, more than in any other novel I know, we see this powerful force at its most complex, at its most unkind and its most real. It is the great strength of this exceptional work.'