Justine (The Alexandria Quartet, #1)
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Justine (Alexandria Quartet #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  3,402 ratings  ·  338 reviews
The time is the eve of the World War II. The place is Alexandria, an Egyptian city that once housed the world's greatest library and whose inhabitants are dedicated to knowledge. But for the obsessed characters in this mesmerizing novel, their pursuits lead only to bedrooms in which each seeks to know—and possess—the other. Since its publication in 1957, Justine has inspir...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published July 12th 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1957)
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sckenda
“‘There are only three things to be done with a woman,’ said Clea once. ‘You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.’ I was experiencing a failure in all these domains of feeling.” (22)

How do I write a review of a hallucination? I smoked opium for 250 pages, and I don’t know how to explain to you why I gave this “experience” 5 stars. Justine is lyrical, evocative, sensual, colorful, and aromatic. Lawrence Durrell transported me to Alexandria, Egypt, on the eve of the Second Wo...more
Paul
I have been meaning to read the Alexandria Quartet for many years and now seems to be a good time. The first part of the Quartet focuses on a struggling writer (Darley); it tells in retrospect the story of a doomed love affair between Darley and Justine, the wife of an Egyptian Copt called Nessim. It is set in Alexandria and there is a strong supporting cast of characters: Pombal, an official at the French consulate who lives with Darley; Capodistria, a Greek who is a broker; Scobie, a transvest...more
Kelly
I woke too soon. Unfortunately, I think that’s the problem with this one. I feel like someone getting surgery who has gotten an insufficient dose of anesthesia, or someone who opens her eyes wide in the midst of a hypnotist act. I really wasn’t looking to make you look bad, and quite frankly I’d prefer it if you’d put me back to sleep, but here I am, nonetheless, looking at you. Durrell feels like he was put in charge of the puppet show before he was ready. This is a test product, not something...more
Chrissie
Concise Summary:
The book is difficult. Words such as immoral sophistry and highbrow drivel come to mind.

The last part induced me to raise the rating from one to two stars. In this part Lawrence Durrell switches from excessive philosophizing to a resolution to the "characters" egotistical behavior. Things actually happen; we see what these people have brought down on themselves. In fact there ARE some wonderful descriptions.

There is no humor.

I fail to believe that Lawrence Durrell delivers a bal...more
David
As you most likely know, this is the first book of Lawrence Durrell's acclaimed Alexandria Quartet. What is it about? Stupid question. Unless by "about" you mean, what does it feel like? It feels like a warm, ancient, beautiful, decaying, diverse, passionate, decadent city that seems to permeate the lives of its inhabitants, most of whom seem obsessed with sex. So it is a lot about sex and what it means, and how it relates to love and manipulation, and if any of this has any moral basis.

There i...more
Matt
Having just thrown away Dave Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius I was in the market for a book that read like it was trying. Like it was making an effort. Like it was really bloody worn out from wanting to be read. And thanks to my friend Michael, who always lends me the highbrow books, I’ve discovered Lawrence Durrell. Durrell, whose brother Gerald was the author of My Family and Other Animals, which as a child I grew up watching on the BBC, is the author of the intimidating-soundi...more
Moses Kilolo
Lawrence Durrell's writing is a shimmering beauty, and he makes you wish for a piece of his Alexandria as much as you want to pity and love and embrace his characters.

His descriptions and observations of the human condition are as deep as that of any philosopher, and when his prose hits that high note, well, you are left dazzled. But I wouldn't lie that it is a straight forward book and the story falls in place with each page flipped, but a concentrated reading will be well worth it.

It is inde...more
Cheryl
The TLS said of JUSTINE, " If ever a work bore an instantly recognizable signature on every sentence, this is it." What is recognizable in Lawrence Durrell's work? There is the absence of a linear story line coupled with no concise prose. Progress is made by the reader understanding just a string of words rather than the usual comprehension of paragraphs, chapters, and the whole. Durrell does not reveal the plot chronologically, but rather how the mind processes memories with the most important...more
Lobstergirl
This will be a pleasing read for those who enjoy language more than plot. The writing is luscious and strange, the subject matter slightly decadent. It reminded me of A Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans, and sure enough, somewhere near the end a character is reading A Rebours. The unnamed narrator, a writer and teacher, is living in Alexandria, Egypt prior to World War II. He has affairs with a woman named Melissa and a married woman named Justine, and friendships with a homosexual, Balthazar, Just...more
Tony
This book is one beautiful, superbly crafted sentence, after another, after another. They read like aphorisms, beatitudes, making the reader pause to absorb each one, to weigh it for truth.

To-wit:

-- The lover mirrors himself like Narcissus in his own family; there is no exit from the predicament.

-- We use each other like axes to cut down the ones we really love.

-- We have been told so often that history is indifferent, but we always take its parsimony or plenty as somehow planned; we never reall
...more
John David
Due to my anal retentiveness and insistence on finishing most everything I start, I’m sometimes not as ambitious when it comes to picking up really big books. “Justine” isn’t itself that large, but it is just the first volume in a 1,000-page tetralogy. And it’s spectacular.

It reads as an odd mélange of “A Sheltering Sky” mixed with the strongly internal character development of writers like Woolf and Proust. As in “A Sheltering Sky,” the most important character isn’t a person at all, but a plac...more
Angie
I absolutely adored this book. At the start I had to adjust to the flourish of the language used but once I started, I felt sucked into it with an amazing force by the beauty of the words.

The setting is very romantic, Egypt in the 1930's and the central character, although a teacher by profession, is part of a social circle of wealthy and creative individuals whose lives are intertwined. They seem to have all the time in the world to spend with each other contemplating life, love and creativity...more
Nate D
Dec 25, 2008 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patient unravellers of elaborately woven gold threads
Recommended to Nate D by: Allen Wilcox (via goodreads)
Shelves: read-in-2008, britain
A novel that grows into itself. The language is initially of a peculiar 19th century sort of gaudiness, even in the modernity of its plotless and achronological churning of memory and melancholy.

Both initial impressions are somewhat deceptive. Justine remains primarily a character study -- of the titular character, of those whose lives wind themselves inextricably around her bright flame, of the city that surrounds and mirrors them -- but tendrils of plot ease in to pull the reader gently throu...more
Jimmy
“We are all hunting for rational reasons for believing in the absurd” (voice of Balthazar) p 92
I kept going back and forth on this one... At times, the over-inflated language actually worked and it was able to touch on something profound and/or beautiful. But more often, the language was a hindrance. It was too much, too whipped up, too humorlessly serious and gaudy, that it was hard to take it seriously... especially when he is just talking about something trivial. it would've been better if th...more
Jaime
Mar 11, 2008 Jaime is currently reading it
after a tea-party with 3 fantastic women/artists
yesterday deep in the springs
the stunning darlene handed me this book.

i have yet to begin...
but opening to a page
for a taste

this is what i find:

'to have great beauty; to have enough money to construct an independent life; to have a skill - these are the factors that persuade the envious, the dispirited to regard her as undeservedly lucky. but why, ask her critics and observers, has she denied herself marriage?'

{yes}.

Ahmed

لما تلاقى رباعيه روائيه لكاتب انجليزى على مدينه مصريه لازم تلفت انتباهك
ولما تلاقى ان عنوان اول جزء فى الرباعيه على اسم انسان لازم تركيزك يزيد
ولما تلاقى ان اسم الانسان دا يرجع لانثى يبقى لازم تقرأها على طول :D :D :D
اول جزء فى الرباعيه.
روايه غريبه فيها عمق انسانى واضح:
امرأة.زرجه.عاهرة (جوستين) يدور الكل فى فلكها كعادة الانثى الأصيله فى أنها مركز الأحداث فى هذا الكون.
اجنبى يتحدث عن مجتمع الأجانب فى مدينه من أعظم مدن العالم (الاسكندريه)
المدينه سحرتهم وصبغتهم بصبغتها المعقده.
من وجهة نظرى فى هذا الج
...more
Islam
قصة أخيرة...
وداع المدينة تعرية للذات/تصنيع الذكرى
10-30/6/2003

لم أنتبه إلا الآن إلى أنه قد مرت عشر سنوات على لقائى الثالث والأكثر حميمية بالمدينة. كان لقائى الأول سريعا وعابرا فى رحلة مدرسية نظمتها جماعة الإخوان المسلمين التى كنت أنتمى إليها فى ذلك الحين لم نزر خلالها إلا معالم قليلة تتلخص فى قصر المجوهرات والقلعة والحديقة الدولية، وكان لقائى الثانى بها قبل ست سنوات من اللقاء الثالث وكان مخطط له بعشوائية مع أصدقاء من المرحلة الثانوية كانت هذه أول زيارة لهم للمدينة، حيث ركبنا القطار فجرا ونذهب أول...more
Robert Beveridge

10 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars Description, yes. Plot and characters, no., November 6, 2003

Lawrence Durrell, Justine (Cardinal, 1957)

Well, my two-month struggle with the first hundred fifty pages of the first novel of the Alexandria Quartet has left me with one resolution: I will never read the other three (or, probably, any other Durrell).

Don't get me wrong. Durrell writes beautiful prose. The descriptions of Alexandria are lush, detailed, and really give...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 09, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (20
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, series
Two couples: Justine and Nessim, Melissa and Balthazar. Then the narrator. The male narrator had an affair both with Justine and Melissa although he is a friend to Nessim and an acquaintance to Balthazar. Melissa fell in love with Nessim and told him that his wife, Justine was no longer faithful to him. Justine was raped and disappeared. His rapist was found dead. Towards the end of the story, Clea, an lesbian writer wrote to the narrator that Justine re-appeared in the hospital Clea was working...more
Unbridled
This book made me question my integrity as a reader. My concentration, it seems, is shot to some degree – however temporary or permanent remains to be seen. But for this book anyway I had pockets of trouble reading without losing my place. Durrell is a fabulous talent and impressed me from the start, sticking my nose into the neck, arm pit, and hair of Alexandria. He writes like a dream, but an opiate-soaked, English-viceroy dream, which means he meanders beautifully in long, lush sentences that...more
Cynthia
Linda lent me a beautiful vintage set of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I had said something about loving DH Lawrence lately. She said they are similar. And it sounded so good; set in an exotic locale, an interesting time, a much-lauded writer, and a friend of Henry Miller to boot. How could I go wrong? I think I've been reading this thing for two weeks but I can't bring myself to finish it. It is a little story of uninteresting little people engaging in petty soap opera dramas because they are h...more
Jim
I didn't do this book any favours by taking so long to read it. I had never read anything by Lawrence Durrell before and this book may elevate him to the ranks of my favourite authors. Oddly enough, I found myself lost in Durrell's poetic style to the extent that the plot and characters came to be of secondary importance...I almost didn't care what happened to them. This book has been analyzed extensively by better writers than I; I'll leave off with saying I want to read more of this fellow's w...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The first thing I did when I finished this book was to go back to the beginning, then to re-read the parts I had marked. I'm sure it will be one of my favorites for the rest of my life. The prose is beautiful (I found myself stopping to read some of it out loud), the characters are interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Alexandria Quartet.
Paul Griffin
This novel is a masterclass on romantic love. Poetry, intrigue, romance. I love Justine more than I love any other human being (present girlfriend excluded). The story of ex-pats in Alexandria before and after the Great War. Justine is the first in a quartet. A breathless performance...
Priya
An excellent book! I came into this quartet not being sure what to expect (other than that it was "a classic" which may or may not mean anything), but I was really pleasantly surprised.

Justine is the story of an Englishman in Alexandria, Egypt, between the two world wars. He becomes friends with a Coptic businessman, Nessim, and eventually the lover of Nessim's wife, the beautiful, fascinating, but downright screwy Justine. This book basically is the narrator's memories of the affair, as well a...more
د.حنان فاروق
هناك روايات تقيد قارئها بالحديد والنار.. فلايستطيع الكلام عنها بعد إنهائها لكني سأقاوم هذا الشعور وأكتب وإن كنت لا أثق أن كتابتي ستعكس كامل انطباعي أو ربما جزءاً طفيفاً منه لكني سأحاول...
لاتستطيع أن تنهي رواية كتلك دون أن توقعك تلك العلاقة الغريبة بين شخوص تلك الرواية في مأزق فهمها... إنها علاقة معقدة متشابكة واضحة المعالم حد الغموض وغامضة حد الوضوح... ولقد ضبطت نفسي أكثر من مرة متلبسة بإعادة قراءة الحوارات التي بين أبطال الرواية خاصة الرواي وجوستين والراوي وكليا والراوي وميليسا ... والحوارات ال...more
Dennis Meier
Eloquently written, Justine includes passages of haunting beauty that rivals Proust. For example, the description on page 27 of Justine standing on a balcony above a city of colored lights as the evening wind stirs from the confines of Asia is typical of the many lyrical turns of phrase found in the books.

Unfortunately, like Proust, the beautiful passages often say little and reveal little about life as most of us know it--by which I mean life as a working person knows it as opposed to the life...more
Jemidar

31.5.2014

I made my first attempt to read this over thirty years ago and from what I can remember I didn't get very far. I mostly think it was because I was very young and yet to go off to uni, but we shall see...

6.7.2014

Made it through. Yay!!

The language and descriptions are beautiful especially when Durrell is describing the city and surrounds, but it's one of those books you have to concentrate on so not good when you are tired. Had to read lots of it twice just to make sure I got it and somet...more
AC
I will need to reread this again, perhaps, if I am smart, after I finish the fourth volume...
Marina
This started off good, the writing was great and you felt like he might try and do something with the story. I never really found myself put off by the mess of language, and the handful of allusions and direct quotes. The narrator being himself a writer surrounded by other creative and well educated types, and really it never felt pretentious for the sake of it. Slowly though, I found myself ill at ease more and more.

The feelings Durrell expresses are more then a little confused, especially the...more
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Born in Jalandhar, British India, in 1912 to Indian-born British colonials, Lawrence Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for the Alexandria Quartet novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell’s pr...more
More about Lawrence Durrell...
The Alexandria Quartet  (The Alexandria Quartet #1-4) Balthazar (The Alexandria Quartet, #2) Mountolive (The Alexandria Quartet, #3) Clea (The Alexandria Quartet, #4) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

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“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” 1099 likes
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