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Clea [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Lawrence Durrell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2000 0783889755 978-0783889757 Lrg
In the final volume of the "Alexandrian Quartet", Darley returns to Alexandria now caught by war-fever. The conflagration has its effect on his circle - on Nessim and Justine, Balthazar and Clea, Mountolive and Pombal. The story is supplemented by music from Debussy, Ravel, Britten and Piazzola.
--This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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About the Author

Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India. He attended the Jesuit College at Darjeeling and St Edmund's School, Canterbury. His first literary work, The Black Book, appeared in Paris in 1938. His first collection of poems, A Private Country, was published in 1943, followed by the three Island books: Prospero's Cell, Reflections on a Marine Venus, about Rhodes, and Bitter Lemons, his account of life in Cyprus. Durrell's wartime sojourn in Egypt led to his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, which he completed in southern France where he settled permanently in 1957. Between the Quartet and The Avignon Quintet he wrote the two-decker Tunc and Nunquam. His oeuvre includes plays, a book of criticism, translations, travel writing, and humorous stories about the diplomatic corps. Caesar's Vast Ghost, his reflections on the history and culture of Provence, including a late flowering of poems, appeared a few days before his death in Sommieres in 1990. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

[Editor's Note: The following is a combined review with JUSTINE, MOUNTOLIVE, and BALTHAZAR.]--The four linked novels that comprise English author Lawrence Durrell's masterpiece, THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET, are set in Alexandria, Egypt, around the time of WWII. The four novels explore the city's polyglot society, full of intrigue, mystery, and sensuality, telling essentially the same story from different points of view. JUSTINE focuses on the beautiful Jewish wife of a wealthy Copt. Her story is told by Darley, her English lover. In BALTHAZAR, Darley reconsiders and retells the story he told in Justine, using information from a mysterious new character, Balthazar. In MOUNTOLIVE, as war begins to loom, British Ambassador David Mountolive enters the intrigues of the interwoven community of characters. In CLEA, Darley returns to a war-fevered Alexandria as the stories of the many characters move toward conclusion. Narrator Nigel Anthony provides a brilliant reading, keeping the variety of voices--English, French, Egyptian--distinct throughout. He offers a one-man play, conveying the passions, disappointments, and triumphs of the complex cast. The classical music interludes that delineate sections of this beautifully produced and packaged set help transport the listener to back- streets of Alexandria. R.E.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Art and love, intertwined May 2 2001
Format:Paperback
Durrell further explores not only another love for Darley, but what art is and what it ought to be. Of course, descriptions are lush. One can almost hear hear the music of the closing festival and the beating of its drums.
Clea and Darley's relationship is embroidered over a wartime background. Durrell uses their beautiful private island experiences to echo and foreshadow the rise and fall of this relationship.
And we see how Clea develops as an artist. We are given Pursewarden's posthumous discourse on the philosophy of art. He gives is a lot to think about.
Sometimes I think that Durrell is Pursewarden, and then I wonder if he is making fun of himself in the Darley character. And in reality I find that I wish I could meet and know Durrell.
Clea is another must read.
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Format:Hardcover
What can one say about perfection? One does not just look at the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel as a great work of art but rather as perfection personified, merely mediated by paints and gilt. This book is exactly the same, its perfection is personified not by pigments and gold, but by ink and prose.
It is indeed rare that an artist pours their all into their work,but when it does occur, be it in the 9th Symphony of Beethoven or Kubrick's 2001, it is unilaterally hailed as a magnum opus.
Clea, in my opinion is just such a work. The way in which Durrell contrasts the blunt style of description with the uncompairable beauty of the subject matter pushes the book deeper into the sanctum sanctorum of literary perfection.
In thinking about this review, perfection seems too cold and metallic a word to be applied to such a beautiful work of art. There seems to be no word that accurately describes the flawless beauty of this book, but these are the limitations of language. Perhaps if I spoke Italian.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and love, intertwined May 2 2001
By Colleen Davenport - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Durrell further explores not only another love for Darley, but what art is and what it ought to be. Of course, descriptions are lush. One can almost hear hear the music of the closing festival and the beating of its drums.
Clea and Darley's relationship is embroidered over a wartime background. Durrell uses their beautiful private island experiences to echo and foreshadow the rise and fall of this relationship.
And we see how Clea develops as an artist. We are given Pursewarden's posthumous discourse on the philosophy of art. He gives is a lot to think about.
Sometimes I think that Durrell is Pursewarden, and then I wonder if he is making fun of himself in the Darley character. And in reality I find that I wish I could meet and know Durrell.
Clea is another must read.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Incestuous June 24 2008
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
[NOTE: This review is intended for people who have read at least the first three volumes of THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET. I do not recommend starting the series with CLEA, and these notes will not be helpful to those that do.]

Lawrence Durrell set himself a huge challenge in his ALEXANDRIA QUARTET: three volumes looking at the same events from different angles, and a fourth that would extend the story forward in time; he intended it as an analogy to the three dimensions of space and the one of time. I had found it a little difficult to get into the first volume, JUSTINE, because the combination of the almost incestuous doings of a cosmopolitan coterie in Alexandria in the late 1930s, coupled with Durrell's perfumed prose, was too exotic a cocktail for me at first. But by the end of the first volume, I was wanting more, and read its successors, BALTHAZAR and especially MOUNTOLIVE, with increasing enjoyment. There only remained this fourth novel, CLEA, to complete the story and make a fitting capstone to the whole impressive edifice. Unfortunately, I feel it fails to live up to the challenge.

After the clarity of the third-person narrative of MOUNTOLIVE, it was a shock to return to the author's own voice once again -- or rather that of Darley, as the writer calls himself in the novels. Durrell still writes well; there is a marvelous set piece early in the book when he approaches Alexandria by sea during a wartime blackout, only to have it suddenly appear out of the darkness in the flare of searchlights, tracer bullets, and incendiary bombs. But I found myself resisting the cloying atmosphere and verbal navel-gazing that I had thought were a thing of the past. I am sure this is deliberate, though; when Darley again meets Justine, his siren from the first novel, she has spilt a bottle of perfume over herself, and the entire encounter is bathed in its almost nauseating aroma. The scene is a pair for the one at the end of MOUNTOLIVE when David finally sees Leila again; Durrell's characters, it seems, cannot just revisit former loves and part as friends; there needs to be an additional twist of the knife as well.

For the most part, the promise to carry the story forward in time takes the form of "Whatever happened to so-and-so?" I am reminded of sitting in on my mother's tea-parties as a child, hearing her catch up with news of old friends from school or college days, people that meant nothing to me. True, we have met all these characters in the earlier books, but MOUNTOLIVE in particular has brought them into the light of the real world; I am no longer interested in re-entering the darkness of their self-obsessions. And so many of this catching-up is handled obliquely: we hear stories passed on by a third person; we read long confessional letters; no less than three separate people, apparently endowed with the power of ventriloquism, give imitations of the dead Scobie, telling tall stories in his voice. Only a very few characters are allowed to speak directly of their experiences, and remarkably little happens in this book that is new -- though when something does, in the swimming party near the end, Durrell at least equals the exciting climaxes of his other novels.

Durrell said that he wanted to explore the many varieties of love. As though to swell the catalogue, MOUNTOLIVE has a brief mention of incest, which is picked up again here. Not in much detail or with any prurience (or very believably either), but that is relatively unimportant. For it is a perfect symbol for a book that is itself incestuous. There is a long excursus in the middle of the book ostensibly taken from the journals of the novelist Pursewarden, in which he describes his impressions of Darley. From the beginning, I felt that this figure was introduced as a slightly comic alter ego for the writer, and indeed he propounds many of the theories that Durrell himself attempts in the QUARTET. MOUNTOLIVE achieves the feat of pulling Pursewarden out of comedy and giving him true stature as an individual. But the Darley of CLEA returns to a lesser avatar of Pursewarden, as a kind of fun-house mirror for himself. So we have a thirty-page passage of one writer dissecting another, both alter-egos of the author. How's that for navel-gazing? What is it if not incestuous?

It is incestuous, too, for an author to manipulate his characters instead of letting the story be driven by their personalities; there is an arbitrary quality to most of the resolutions here. Even the central relationship between Darley and Clea seems to come about too easily, rather than as the product of the interplay of personalities revealed in this novel; and when the relationship later encounters difficulty, that too is largely arbitrary and unexplained. As for the rest, it is as though Durrell lined up his characters like pieces on a board, saying "Let's see, who have I not yet paired with whom?" Indeed, in an appendix entitled "Workpoints," Durrell offers further character combinations that the reader can develop for himself if he cares to do so. The author, it seems, has become a mere gamesman. A pity, for this great undertaking had promised so much more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conclusion Sept. 23 2008
By Steiner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Durrell's final novel of his Alexandria Quartet returns the narrative back to Darley, the narrator of Justine, and the result is somewhat mixed. On the one hand, it is actually relieving that Durrell kicks the time forward in this sequel, instead of continuing to tighten and twist the narrative thread in another direction as he does in the previous three novels. However, returning the narrative voice back to Darley also has the effect of blinding our perspective instead of expanding it. Although it is interesting to return to the foundation, the result stifles Durrell's ability to engage with his characters in a truly different register. Although the Alexander Quartet is ultimately an excellent achievement, it also fails to live up to the intended scope of the project.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Ending to A Transcendent Reading Experience Jan. 8 2013
By A Certain Bibliophile - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Clea," the fourth volume of Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet," opens with several years having passed since the events of the first three volumes. Darley, the narrator, is living on a Greek island with the six-year-old illegitimate daughter Nessim fathered with Melissa. After running into Balthazar and his Inter-Linear, he eventually heads off for Alexandria again with the child, full of both trepidation and anticipation about the past and the people he knew there.

When Darley arrives in Alexandria, almost immediately he runs into his old artist friend Clea, and consummates a formerly Plutonic relationship, now that their circle of friends is unencumbered by the presence of Melissa, who has died, and Justine, who is under house arrest for the duration of the novel. More than in any of the others, this novel has several meta-fictional aspects: meditations on art, creativity, and the novel (especially as revealed with Pursewarden's letters), and some of Clea's ideas about painting. All of this is, as always in this tetralogy, tied in beautifully with Balthazar's earlier analyses shot throughout the Inter-Linear.

Reading these four novels has been one of the more powerful set of experiences that I have recently had. Most readers will probably not enjoy this; it's not action-packed and full of adventure. But if you admire writing that tries to capture the uniqueness of inner coruscating experience, the complexities of passion and romantic relationships, and realizes the inability to tell "the whole story," even after nearly one thousand pages of trying, I hope you will appreciate this as much as I did. As I said in my review of "Mountolive," I have simply run out of things to say about how much I loved this. Sometimes admiration must finish itself off in silence.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars no title Jan. 18 2006
By C. L Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am numbed, bedazzled, and incredibly sad to have finished this exquisite world Durrell has created. Must rank with "Memoirs of Hadrian" by Marguarite Yourcenar, as one of the very best things I have ever read. Spellbinding is a good word, for his words truly weave a spell within the mind. "Clea", like all the rest, was stunning. Is there something about delta cities?
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