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Prospero's cell: a guide to the landscape and manners of the island of Corcyra

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  428 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

Lawrence Durrell composed Propero's Cell as if it were a journal or diary of a year and a half on the island of Corfu, and he prefaced his statement of poetic intent by a casual comment, "I am making no attempt to control all this material." Of course he really is, for this is a carefully plotted and thought-out reminiscence that covers a period from early spring to harves

157 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Faber (first published February 20th 1974)
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Lynne King
Reading this book the second time around just confirms what a brilliant writer Durrell is. My love affair with his works began in my twenties with the four novels comprising what would later become The Alexandria Quartet, and his subsequent novels mainly written in France including the magnificent book The Avignon Quintet: Monsieur, Livia, Constance, Sebastian and Quinx. I cannot fault anything about him. His travel books, humour, poetry and letters especially those written to and received from ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are looking for an Alexandria Quartet come-down
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: Paul Theroux
Fate can be a cruel mistress. And sometimes she can be wonderfully kind and place all the ingredients in the right place at the right time thereby creating something almost on the other side of wonderful. Lawrence Durrell could have been born in a time and place when he chose or was forced to have a static existence. He might have lived without the funds to furnish his travels and his exploration of all sides of the Mediterranean. Or he might have been born with funds and an unquenchable wanderl ...more
Ariel Evans
Feb 18, 2009 Ariel Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins. All the way across Italy you find yourself in a landscape severely domesticated--each valley laid out after the architect's pattern, brilliantly lighted, human. But once you strike out from the flat and desolate Calabrian mainland toward the sea, you aware of a change in the heart of things: aware of the horizon beginning to stain at the rim of the world, aware of islands coming out of the darkness to meet you.

In the morning you wake
Aug 16, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-classics
Years ago when I was young, Lawrence Durrell was a god to me; and his Alexandria Quartet was like sacred scripture. Now that I have aged and learned a thing or two, I see that Durrell is something of a phony. His book on Corfu -- Prospero's Cell -- has many of the same characteristics that I loved in the Quartet: the significant encounters with a group of eccentric characters, leading to significant discussions and multiple epiphanies based on their knowledge of the local area.

Now that I am bet
Ryan Murdock
Born in colonial India in the foothills of the Himalayas but sent to boarding school in England, Lawrence Durrell hated the buttoned-up lifestyle of the north. When his father died he saw an opportunity to escape. Somehow, by some incredible art of persuasion, he convinced his mother to pack up their entire family—four children, of whom he was the eldest—and move them all to the Greek island of Corfu.

They lived a crazy island life with eccentric locals and writers dropping by—people like Freya S
I enjoyed this book as a poetic and adult complement to Gerald Durrell's childhood memories of Corfu. Many of the same characters reappear and are seen thru Lawrence's adult eyes. The epilogue is sad; the island seems to have been a bombing range during WWII.
Feb 24, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably my favorite book to read and read again when the weather gets cold. Inspires travel lust and urges to quit one's job. A collection of Durrell's memories, journal entries and highly romanticized impressions from his travels in Corfu, Greece, before WWII.
Jan 26, 2017 Udeni rated it it was ok
Shelves: default
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Durrell's prose is pure magic. Vivid yet subtle, it flirts with the Baroque without ever breaking the spell it casts on the reader.
This is seductive travel writing at its finest.
Particularly well done is the balance between descriptive prose and historical detail in order to bring the island to life out of a colourful past and into an uncertain present. The final note is a bitter sweet one, layered with nostalgia...
Wim DG
Jun 05, 2017 Wim DG rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Page 1 you read: 'Other countries may offer you discoveries in manners or lore or landscape; Greece offers you something harder - the discovery of yourself.'
This book offers little more than some anekdotes on manners, lore and landscape. Some nice chapters, but not the book on Greece I thought it could be.
Feb 24, 2014 J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
Written in journal format this is part history part travelogue of Corfu. Lawrence Durrell lived on Corfu for little over five years with his first wife Nancy Myers. Nancy has been airbrushed out of Gerald's account "My family and other animals" and doesn't feature much in Lawrence's account. When she does feature she is dubbed "N". He moved to the island when he was twenty six years old.

"It is April and we have taken an old fisherman's house in the extreme north of the island Kalamai. Ten sea-m
Sep 09, 2014 hellocarmel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Partly a diary of his time in Corfu with his eclectic and eccentric collection of Greek friends, partly a history of this fascinating island and partly a poetic homage to a beautiful part of the world, Prospero's Cell is an evocation of the largest of the Ionian Islands. From the times of Ancient Greece, when Odysseus allegedly fled to the island to the late 1930s when this book was written, with the looming world war bringing menace to paradise, Durrell skips back and forth in time, telling var ...more
Aug 01, 2015 izzy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
very fragmented - which you would expect from a diary - and often over-profound and irritating, but with the capacity to be beautiful. durrell knows the sea, more than any other writer i've read, and this books feels like something found washed up on a beach. the sexism is jarring (but what else would you expect from lawrence "there are only three things to be done with a women [...] love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature" durrell) but (almost) worth it. this is a book made for qu ...more
Feeling very ambiguous about this slim part-memoir part-travelogue by Lawrence Durrell. Clarity, I think, is the issue here. Though the author relishes in attractive poetic form, whether describing people or places, the weather even, I felt as stumbling on air. Not a nice feeling. I believe I've come across books like this one before, very sophisticated stuff, often beautiful, usually confusing. A better reader will enjoy this much more than I did.
Rachel Persad
Jan 26, 2013 Rachel Persad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: Bee Bishop
Shelves: greece
Durrell's part memoir, part history, part cultural narrative offers a poignant insight into the life of Corcyra between the wars. Enjoyable and charming, of a very different time. A great gift for anyone travelling to the Greek Islands.
Jan 25, 2013 Katy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I enjoyed this book because it contains echoes of Gerald Durrell, in the same way that I like Beethoven's Eroica Symphony because it reminds me of his Pastoral Symphony. In both cases, though, what I really want is the one of which I'm being reminded.
i love his descriptive prose but this one is a little dry. still i long to be there with the group sipping wine and enjoying the conversation and roar of the sea. the rustic beauty summoned by Durrell is so enchanting.
Jan 03, 2017 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having watched The Durrells in Corfu on PBSERIES, I was curious about this family and Corfu so I decided to launch a study on the Durrells. This book does not disappoint and covers the era before the outbreak of WWII and was an interesting portrait of an easy life of an aristocrat on this island at the time. He was a writer and seemed to have lived a life of leisure somewhat. I found his descriptions of the Greek Orthodox Church by far the most interesting part of this book.
Jul 09, 2015 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Although Lawrence Durrell is best known for The Alexandria Quartet, his travel books are worth reading. I especially like Prospero’s Cell, a memoir/history of Corfu that includes journal entries, poetry, history, a travel guide, dialogue, and letters.

Durrell writes lyrical, dense, rhythmic, imaginative prose. You either fall in love with it or you don’t. In the passage below, he writes crystalline, unconventional fragments about the sea.

"The sea’s curious workmanship: bottle-green glass sucked s
You become aware of islands, coming to meet you.... This travel memoir dedicated to Durrell's first experience in Greece, on the island of Corfu from 1935 -1939 is a sensuous banquet of luminous impressions. Durrell’s travel memoirs are mosaics of history, landscape, folklore, diaries of daily experience filtered through an artist's eye searching for the patterns and the myth below the surface. They are not so much explorations of the soul of place per se, but of the ways the soul of place expre ...more
Klaus Metzger
Jul 04, 2016 Klaus Metzger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: klaus
Lawrence Durrell schildert auf eine einzigartig beeindruckende Art und Weise seine Erlebnisse auf der Insel Korfu, auf der er vor über 80 Jahren mit seiner Frau ein Fischerhaus bewohnte. Er schreibt über Odysseus, der auf Korfu gestrandet sein soll und dem Inselheiligen Spiridion. Als Brite interessiert er sich auch für die Spuren der Engländer (1815 bis 1864). Die Kaiserin Sisi blieb für ihn eindruckslos. Warum?
Wir waren auf Korfu (2016), bevor ich dieses Buch las. Auch wir begeisterten uns für
May 01, 2011 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cold people who want to feel alive again
When the Northerly wind blows, find solace here, in some of the most beautiful writing you could read. You will taste the olives. You will feel the sunshine. Corfu of the late 1930's will come alive. And you will even learn some things about Greece, and about silence.

"Presently the carbide lamp is lit and the whole miraculous underworld of the lagoon bursts into a hollow bloom--it is like the soft beautiful incandescence of a gas-mantle lighting. Transformed, like figures in a miracle, we gaze d
May 10, 2015 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Durrell lived on Corfu for several years and obviously loved the island. He evokes the place, its people, way of life and history very well. He was a poet as well as a novelist and his writing reflects a poet's sensibility to multiple images in a way which gives a richness to his writing.
His mother and younger siblings rented a house on Corfu while he was there, although Lawrence does not mention them. Kid brother Gerald penned a different view of the island, less beautifully written but very am
Dan Clarke
Sep 14, 2016 Dan Clarke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very evocative description of Corfu - and an interesting companion to Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy.

Lawrence Durrell includes many humorous anecdotes of his own but his book is very poignant for having been written in Alexandria soon after he and his wife escaped from the Italian occupation of Corfu.

Some of the characters familiar from My Family and Other Animals are present in Prospero's Cell - including Spiro "Americanos" and Theodore Stephanides.
Jun 29, 2014 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cant stand having to read a book in short bits like I did this one! This book was quite an easy read but did demand a bit of attention with all the history and philosophy. I really enjoyed his writing style. He made Corfu sound magical. I'd love to go there and see if the things in the book remain nowadays. I decided to read this book after reading his brothers when I was a lot younger. A good easy read overall.
Julie Thomason
Dec 16, 2016 Julie Thomason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a refreshing read; I had not read anything by Larry Durrell for many years. Too many books today are influenced by creative writing courses and can seem samey and light. This was wonderful, to read a writer with an amazing vocabulary, and importantly not afraid to use it. It would be interesting to go to Corfu and observe the changes and see what it still there as he captures the place in his inimitable style. Am tempted to go back and read more.
Oct 14, 2016 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In one sense I found it rather indulgent. There is no doubt that the life in Corfu is intelligently and skilfully observed. The language and vocabulary are exquisite.
For me it was the epilogue after the ravages of war that made sense of the whole book. A sadness for times lost and never to be re-found. It had the same intense pain as Cider with Rosie.
Mark Law
Mar 01, 2015 Mark Law rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I took my family last year to stay in the White House in Corfu which is where the author and his wife lived in the late 1930s (had a great holiday). I read the book to get a feel for the place and thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is not genius which brother Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy definitely is but really worth reading if you ever make a trip to Corfu.
Ann Tonks
This is a curious book that I suspect only makes sense if you have been to Corfu and are interested in its history. It's a slight book and although some of the people in it are well painted it lacks the depth that one would expect from a middle ranked British author.
Abby Fermont
A mix between biography, travel journal and history writing a fascinating glimpse of life in pre-war Corfu. Some parts seem somewhat dated now, but if you want an idea of what a bohemian lifestyle was like in the 1930s from a male point of view, it's good reading.
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Lawrence George 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 prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose ...more
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