Thursday, 31 October 2019

Anne Farnol

Anne Farnol is a passing character in Constance, the central volume of Lawrence Durrell's Avignon Quintet.  It is wartime, about 1940, in Cairo where Anne is a young officer in the Field Transport Corps.  She appears in a brief vignette about four pages long (p.64ff) in which she and Blanford, a major character in the book, are drifting into an affair.  One evening Blanford goes round to her flat; he says 'I would like to stay with you', and she says 'I hoped you would - I am so homesick, I sleep badly and this town makes me restless'.  They make love, shuddering with pleasure, spending the whole night happily in each other's arms.

The next day Blanford is told that Anne is dead.  Suicide.  She had found out just before going to bed with Blanford that her husband who was in the Royal Navy was lost at sea.           

'Anne Farnol!' says Blanford. 'The modest name vibrated on in my memory for whole months which succeeded her disapparance from the scene, from the war, from time.'

And that is that.  You hear nothing more of Anne Farnol again.  The reader is left suspended and unknowing just like Blanford.

I have wondered whether that story was based on anything in Durrell's life but I have drawn a blank.  Just recently however I have come across the name again, the surname at least, Farnol, in Durrell's The Black Book written on Corfu 46 years before Constance. It is mentioned twice but just in a string of names; nothing identifies Farnol.  Just 'a modest name' that may have meant something to Durrell at the time and which he tucked away in a draw for future use,