Wednesday, July 14, 2010

From the Cell

Some great moments in Prospero's Cell by Lawrence Durrell:

Afterwards we walk down in the warm night to the dark slipway, and, as the moon is rising, shake out the jib of the Van Norden, start her engine, and put our noses northward into the night. Lights move on the darkness hardly grazing the surface of the consciousness. (28)

Lazily we unhook the rowboat and make for the point where the still blue sea is twisted in a single fold - like a curtain caught by a passing hand. (28)

We bathe naked, and the sun and water make our skins feel old and rough, like precious lace. (28)

The sea's curious workmanship: bottle-green glass sucked smooth and porous by the waves: vitreous shells: wood stripped and cleaned, and bark swollen with salt a bead: sea-charcoal, brittle and sticky: fronds of bladderwort with their greasy marine skin and reptilian feel: rocks, gnawed and rubbed: sponges, heavy with tears: amber: bone: the sea.
Our life on this promontory has become like some flawless Euclidean statement. Night and sleep resolve and complete the day with their quod erat demonstrandum; and if, uneasily stirring before dawn, one stands for a moment to watch the morning star, which hangs like a drop of yellow dew in the east, it is not that sleep (which is like death in stories, beautiful) has been disrupted: it is the greater for this noiseless star, for the deep scented treeline and the sea pensively washing and rewashing one dreams. So that, confused, you wonder at the overlapping of the edges of dream and reality, and turn to the breathing person in whose body, as in a seashell - echos the systole and diastole of the waters. (47-48)

Not that time itself is anything more than a word here. Peasant measurement of time and distance is done by cigarettes. Ask a peasant how far a village is and he will reply, nine times out of ten, that it is a matter of so many cigarettes. (51)

From Prospero's Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu by Lawrence Durrell (First published by Faber, 1945; this edition Axios, 2008).