Eye of the Beholder: The Alexandria Quartet

With memory, with love, with any strong emotion, there often come many-sided truths. The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell’s experimental tetralogy of mystery, love, and espionage, explores memory and knowledge, contrasting in its story the love affair of a young writer with the recollections of other people. Anglo-Irish novelist, poet, translator, travel writer, and dramatist Lawrence Durrell (1912–1990) set the tale in Alexandria, Egypt, in the years before, during, and after World War II. The four volumes, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea, involve the same characters, but each narrator tells the novels’ complex saga from his or her own perspective and place in time—“stereoscopic narrative,” in the words of Durrell.

What is the relationship between memory, place, and time? How should we define truth and knowledge? Does Durrell’s narrative approach better capture how we make different meanings from shared events? We’ll explore these questions and many more against the backdrop of a lushly written portrait of an ancient city. For more on what to expect, see Becca’s blog post Love in Stereo.


Alexandria Museum statuettes
Alexandria Museum statuettes by Cormac Lawler

“We are all hunting for rational reasons for believing in the absurd.”

– Lawrence Durrell in Justine


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Rebecca Fisher is a longtime participant at Great Books events around the country. She is also the Director of Continuing Education at Harrison Middleton University.

Participants are required to obtain the specified edition in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (Faber & Faber, 2012)
ISBN-13: 978-0571283934

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