NUNQUAM

Julian said: “Freud says that all happiness is the deferred fulfilment of a prehistoric wish, and then he adds: ‘That is why wealth brings so little happiness; money is not an infantile wish.'” He sat down, musing deeply for a moment; then he got down softly upon one knee and began to do up the little green loaf in its brown paper, tying the string carefully round it. Having secured it he replaced it once more upon the window-sill, in the folds of his overcoat, under the topper. “I have been studying the demonic of our capitalistic system through the eyes of Luther – a chastening experience in some ways. He saw the final coming to power in this world of Satan as a capitalistic emblem. For him the entire structure of the Kingdom of Satan is essentially capitalistic – we are the devil’s own real property, he says: and his deepest condemnation of our system is in his phrase ‘Money is the word of the Devil, through which he creates all things in exactly the way God once created the True Word.’ In his devastating theology capitalism manifests itself as the ape of God, the simia dei. It is hard to look objectively at oneself in the shaving-mirror once one has adventured with this maniac through the ‘Madensack’ of the real shared world – this extended worm-bag of a place out of which squirm all our cultural and gnomic patterns, the stinking end-gut of a world whose convulsions are simply due to the putrefying explosions of faecal gas in the intestines of time.” He paused, musing and shaking his head. “And then gold itself, as Spengler points out, is not really a colour, for colours are natural things. No, that metallic greenish gleam is of a satanic unearthliness; yet it has an explicit mystical value in the iconography of our Churches.” He relit his cigar with a silver lighter.

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TUNC

“Shall we talk syllogistically, Nash, or just talk? Causality is an attempt to mesmerise the world into some sort of significance. We cannot bear its indifference.” Tears came into his eyes, comico-pathetic tears, left over from laughter turned sour. “I know you are sick of your job, and just about as ill as I am, if I am ill.” He blew out a windy lip and gave me a cunning sidelong glance. “You sound as if you have been playing with R.N.A. It’s dangerous, Charlock. You will miss a step and go sprawling among the archetypal symbols. We’ll have to reserve you a room in Paulhaus.” That was the firm’s private mental asylum. “It is true” I said “that I wake up with tears pouring down my face, sometimes of laughter, sometimes of plain tears.”
“There, you see?” he said triumphantly. He crossed and uncrossed his legs. “You had better take some action smartly, go on a rest cure, write another scientific book.”
“I am off to Tahiti. Gauguin was here.”
“Good.”
“Inventors are a happy laughing breed.” I stifled a sob and yawned instead. “Nash, is your laughter a cry for help?”
“Everyone’s is. When do you go?”
“Tonight. Let me give you lunch.”
“Very well.”

Lawrence Durrell, TUNC.

SIMULACRUM

“…Yet suddenly now all our constraint vanished and we were at last able to talk. It was as if this outburst had exploded the bubble of listlessness in which we had been enveloped all evening. ‘You see a different me’ she cried in a voice almost of triumph. ‘But once again the difference lies in you, in what you imagine you see!’ Her words rattled down like a hail of sods on an empty coffin.

‘How is it that you can feel no resentment against me? To forgive such treachery so easily – why, it is unmanly. Not to hate such a vampire? It is unnatural. Nor could you ever understand my sense of humiliation at not being able to regale, yes regale you, my dear, with the treasures of my inner nature as a mistress. And yet, in truth, I enjoyed deceiving you, I must not deny it. But also there was regret in only offering you the pitiful simulacrum of a love (Ha! that word again!) which was sapped by deceit. I suppose this betrays the bottomless female vanity again: to desire the worst of two worlds, of both words – love and deceit. Yet it is strange that now, when you know the truth, and I am free to offer you affection, I feel only increased self-contempt. Am I enough of a woman to feel that the real sin against the Holy Ghost is dishonesty in love? But what pretentious rubbish – for love admits of no honesty by its very nature.’ So she went on, hardly heeding me, arguing my life away, moving obsessively up and down the cobweb of her own devising, creating images and beheading them instantly before my eyes.

What could she hope to prove? Then she placed her head briefly against my knee and said: ‘Now that I am free to hate or love it is comical to feel only fury at this new self-possession of yours! You have escaped me somewhere. But what else was I to expect?’ In a curious sort of way this was true. To my surprise I now felt the power to wound her for the first time, even to subjugate her purely by my indifference! ‘Yet the truth’ I said ‘is that I feel no resentment for the past. On the contrary I am full of gratitude because an experience which was perhaps banal in itself (even disgusting for you) was for me immeasurably enriching!’ She turned away saying harshly: ‘Then we should both be laughing now.’ Together we sat staring out into the darkness for a long while.

Then she shivered, lighted a cigarette and resumed the thread of her interior monologue. ‘The post-mortems of the undone! What could you have seen in it all, I wonder? We are after all totally ignorant of one another, presenting selected fictions to each other!

I suppose we all observe each other with the same immense ignorance. I used, in my moments of guilt long afterwards, to try and imagine that we might one day become lovers again, on a new basis. What a farce! I pictured myself making it up to you, expiating my deceit, repaying my debt. But … I knew that you would always prefer your own mythical picture, framed by the five senses, to anything more truthful. But now, then, tell me – which of us was the greater liar? I cheated you, you cheated yourself.’ These observations, which at another time, in another context, might have had the power to reduce me to ashes, were now vitally important to me in a new way. ‘However hard the road, one is forced to come to terms with truth at last’ wrote Pursewarden somewhere. Yes, but unexpectedly I was discovering that truth was nourishing – the cold spray of a wave which carried one always a little further towards self-realization. I saw now that my own Justine had indeed been an illusionist’s creation, raised upon the faulty armature of misinterpreted words, actions, gestures.

Truly there was no blame here; the real culprit was my love which had invented an image on which to feed. Nor was there any question of dishonesty, for the picture was coloured after the necessities of the love which invented it. Lovers, like doctors, colouring an unpalatable medicine to make it easier for the unwary to swallow! No, this could not have been otherwise, I fully realized…”

Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet (Clea).

THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET

“…as for me I am neither happy nor unhappy; I lie suspended like a hair or a feather in the cloudy mixtures of memory. I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations.  The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this — that only THERE, in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality be reordered, reworked and made to show its significant side. Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold — the meaning of the pattern. For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfil it in its true potential — the imagination. Otherwise why should we hurt one another? No, the remission I am seeking, and will be granted perhaps, is not one I shall ever see in the bright friendly eyes of Melissa or the sombre brow-dark gaze of Justine. We have all of us taken different paths now; but in this, the first great fragmentation of my maturity, I feel the confines of my art and my living deepened immeasurably by the memory of them. In thought I achieve them anew;  as if only here — this wooden table over the sea under an olive tree, only here can I enrich them as they deserve. So that the taste of this writing should have taken something from its living subjects — their breath, skin, voices — weaving them into the supple tissues of human memory. I want them to live again to the point where pain becomes art…. Perhaps this is a useless attempt, I cannot say. But I must try…”

Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet (Justine).