Durrell, Lawrence

Durrell, Lawrence dŭˈrəl, dûrˈəl [key], 1912–90, British author, b. India, of Irish parents. Durrell traveled widely, often serving in diplomatic positions; most of his works are set in exotic locations and convey an extraordinary sense of place. His novel The Black Book (1938) is steeped in an atmosphere of moral decadence. Durrell's masterpiece is The Alexandria Quartet, consisting of Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958), and Clea (1960). Purporting to be a study of the many ramifications of love, the quartet's excellence lies mainly in its technique—its rich, ornamental language, its experiments with point of view, and its evocation of the exotic, frequently bizarre atmosphere of the city of Alexandria, Egypt.

Durrell's later novel sequences include the literary satire of Tunc (1968) and Numquam (1970), and The Avignon Quincunx (1974–85), which brought together his study of southern France and his obsession with multiple perspective. Durrell's diplomatic service is reflected in Bitter Lemons (1957), Esprit de Corps (1958), and Stiff Upper Lip (1959), spoofs of diplomatic life, and in Reflections on a Marine Venus (1953), Prospero's Cell (1960), and Spirit of Place (1969), travel books. Among Durrell's other works are volumes of poetry including The Red Limbo Lingo (1971) and Vega and Other Poems (1973), and the novel Monsieur (1975).

See The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935–80 (1988), ed. by I. S. MacNiven; biographies by G. Bowker (1997) and I. S. MacNiven (1998); studies by J. Unterecker (1965), G. S. Fraser (1968), and R. Pine (1988).

His brother, Gerald Durrell, 1920–95, English conservationist and author, b. Jamshedpur, India, was noted for his pioneering efforts to have zoos participate in the preservation of endangered species through captive breeding programs. He wrote 37 books, most dealing with animals. His charmingly written works include The Overloaded Ark (1953), the autobiographical My Family and Other Animals (1956), and The Aye Aye and I (1993). He also wrote novels and was involved in radio and television.

See biography by D. Botting (1999).

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