Chapelle Saint-Julien de Montredon Sommieres, Departement du Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Lawrence George Durrell (27 February 1912 – 7 November 1990) was an expatriate British novelist, poet, dramatist, and travel writer. Gaston Zananiri was an eminent scholar, historian, and poet of Alexandria, Egypt. The Atelier des Beaux Arts in Alexandria was co-founded by the homosexual Gaston Zananiri, whose father was a Syrian Greek Catholic, his mother a Hungarian Jew. Among his lovers were Thomas Whittemore, of the Byzantine Institute of America, and a young American dancer called Kirk Prince. Zananiri was a friend of Constantine P. Cavafy’s, and later became a friend of Lawrence Durrell’s. Robert Liddell believed Durrell’s Balthazar, the eponymous central character of his 1958 novel, was based on him. Lawrence Durrell, heterosexual, created in his novels a sophisticated literary world in which both male and female homosexuality are significant and recognized presences.
Lawrence George Durrell was the eldest brother of naturalist and writer Gerald Durrell. Born in India to British colonial parents, he was sent to England at the age of eleven for his education. He did not like formal education, but started writing poetry at age 15.
On 22 January 1935, Durrell married Nancy Isobel Myers (1912–1983). It was the first of his four marriages. Durrell was always unhappy in England, and in March of that year he persuaded his new wife, and his mother and younger siblings, to move to the Greek island of Corfu. There they could live more economically and escape both the English weather, and what Durrell considered the stultifying English culture, which he described as "the English death".
His first book was published in 1935, when he was 23. In March 1935 he and his wife, and his mother and younger siblings, moved to the island of Corfu. Durrell spent many years thereafter living around the world. His most famous work is The Alexandria Quartet, published between 1957 and 1960. The best-known novel in the series is the first, Justine.
During World War Two, Durrell served as a press attaché to the British embassies, first in Cairo and then Alexandria. While in Alexandria he met Eve (Yvette) Cohen (1918–2004), a Jewish Alexandrian. She inspired his character Justine in The Alexandria Quartet. In 1947, after his divorce from Nancy was completed, Durrell married Eve Cohen, with whom he had been living since 1942. The couple's daughter, Sappho Jane, was born in Oxfordshire in 1951, and named after the ancient Greek poet Sappho.
In 1955 Durrell separated from Eve Cohen.
Durrell was friend with Patrick Leigh Fermor, in ''Bitter Lemons'' (1957), Durrell recounts how, during the Cypriot insurgency against continued British rule in 1955, Leigh Fermor visited Durrell's villa in Bellapais, Cyprus: "After a splendid dinner by the fire he starts singing, songs of Crete, Athens, Macedonia. When I go out to refill the ouzo bottle...I find the street completely filled with people listening in utter silence and darkness. Everyone seems struck dumb. 'What is it?' I say, catching sight of Frangos. 'Never have I heard of Englishmen singing Greek songs like this!' Their reverent amazement is touching; it is as if they want to embrace Paddy wherever he goes."
Durrell married again in 1961, to Claude-Marie Vincendon, whom he met on Cyprus. She was a Jewish woman born in Alexandria. Durrell was devastated when Claude-Marie died of cancer in 1967. He married for the fourth and last time in 1973, to Ghislaine de Boysson, a French woman. They divorced in 1979.
Beginning in 1974, Durrell published The Avignon Quintet, using many of the same techniques. The first of these novels, Monsieur, or the Prince of Darkness, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1974. The middle novel, Constance, or Solitary Practices, was nominated for the 1982 Booker Prize. By the end of the century, Durrell was a bestselling author and one of the most celebrated writers in England. Durrell supported his writing by working for many years in the Foreign Service of the British government. His sojourns in various places during and after World War II (such as his time in Alexandria, Egypt) inspired much of his work. He married four times, and had a daughter with each of his first two wives.
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