Lawrence Durrell was a novelist and a poet and also wrote books about his sojourns in Corfu, Rhodes and Cyprus. His books are a little out of date now, being written just before and after WWII, but he gets into the soul of the people, the country, its culture and quirks. These are not travel stories but as someone wrote 'foreign residence' books . His novels I find difficult to read though have enjoyed some. His travel books on the other hand are delightful, rich in description, witty and shrewd.
Spirit of Place is the one I have just finished and here are some quotes I enjoyed.
"My books are always about living in places, not just rushing through them. .......tasting the wines, cheeses and characters of the different countries you begin to realise that the important determination of any culture is after all - the spirit of place."
"Most travellers hurry too much. But try just for a moment sitting on the great stone omphalos*, the navel of the ancient greek world at Delphi. Don't ask mental questions, but just relax and empty your mind."
"Ten minutes of this sort of quiet inner identification will give you the notion of the greek landscape which you could not get in twenty years of studying greek texts."
*omphalos - tummy button
This would be a delightful way to get in tune with Greece but nowadays it would be hard to find the peace and quiet needed. Cars and tourist coaches haul in hundreds of people every day and hour. Maybe in a snow flurry in the middle of winter, and then only early in the morning.
And on Greek potholes. So, so true even today. He is talking about his return to Corfu after twenty odd years.
"I'm not joking when I say that I remembered many of them from my youth - the identical holes. "
"An army of gnomes with teaspoons comes out one night and very deftly fills the holes with a light mix of cement and clinker - like filling cavities in teeth. This just passes the test of summer weather, but the first thunderstorms of the autumn deftly wash out the fillings and leave us once more with the original road surface - a sort of confluent smallpox effect"
So it's gnomes with teaspoons that used to fill those damn potholes here on Poros. I think they've gone on strike or have been frightened away by trolls on fiery four-wheeled dragons. Our potholes have not been re-filled for many a summer.
And one last quote describing a grande gourmet at a French restaurant.
"L'abdomen est un peu majestueux."
What I found even more entertaining was a couple of hours of his brother Gerald reading his highly entertaining books on his childhood in Corfu. Most of you must know of the book 'My family and other Animals'. It is a chuckle a page. If you liked his books then these recordings are even better. Great for taking the drudge out of the ironing. There is one clip on YouTube where he reads his own work and is preferable to excerpts read by others.
Gerald Durrell. Stories from a Corfu Childhood. Look for it on YouTube.
Lawrence Durrell -
Prospero's Cell Corfu
Bitter Lemons Cyprus
Reflections of a Marine Venus Rhodes
Spirit of Place a collection of letters and memories
Gerald Durrell -
My Family and Other Animals
Birds, Beasts and Relatives
The Garden of the Gods
These three now seem to be sold as the 'Corfu Trilogy'.
for more on Greece and Poros