Lust, Obsession + Intrigue in an Enduring Midwar Masterpiece
When novelist Lawrence Durrell was up for consideration for the 1962 Nobel Prize in literature for his four-novel series, The Alexandria Quartet, a curious thing happened.
On his way to losing — as he did that year, to John Steinbeck — Durrell was judged by the Nobel Committee to be more of a wait-and-see kind of candidate. Which, under normal circumstances, when the best of the best are being weighed in the balance, is not that unusual.
Hothouse soap operatics aside, the Quartet details difficult adult issues …
Not unusual at all, until you get to why the committee felt that way. The quartet of novels — 1957’s Justine, then 1958’s Balthazar, followed that same year by Mountolive and ending in 1960 with Clea — had been examined the year before, when the committee ruled Durrell out on the grounds that he gave off “a dubious aftertaste.”
Due in large part to … ? His “monomaniacal preoccupation with erotic complications.”