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Black Book
Lawrence Durrell
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Black Book

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  340 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Durrell's third work, the original angry young novel, was first published by his good friend and long-time correspondent Henry Miller as the first title in the short-lived "Villa Seurat" imprint of the Paris-based Obelisk Press. Unpublishable by the more staid (and censored) presses across the Channel, no work better captures the anguish and death-consciousness of a Europe ...more
Paperback, 1 page
Published March 29th 1963 by Plume (first published 1937)
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(showing 1-30 of 781)
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MJ Nicholls
A striking series of ornate sentences strung together by thematic tentacles of doom, death, and consumptive Cockney girlfriends. Written with the exuberant zeal of a 24-year-old Boy Genius taking perverse pleasure in satirising the “English death” (sexual repression and bourgeois stuffiness) from his residence in Corfu, Durrell’s allusive, nigh-on-apocalyptic rant-cum-ramble is a knotty (and naughty) string of surreal images, dark and erudite musings on death and decay, clotted at times with too ...more
Lynne King
I read this book after I had read "The Alexandria Quartet" by Lawrence Durrell, about life in Alexandria and I just loved it. To this day it still remains one of my two favourite books. I've read all of his other books (well I thought I had until yesterday!) and "The Black Book" was the penultimate one that I read. Durrell was only twenty-four when he wrote this in 1936 and still feeling his way through his writing.

The book is somewhat "raw" in style and the story is relatively simple. I had alw
You're lucky Durrell, Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell saved you from getting two stars. The booknerd in me couldn't bare to give you two stars while I gave a fanboy MMA book four stars, so you got three. There is some nice poetic prose in this book but I just couldn't get into this at all. I'm not sure what the point of the book was. Yes, it is similar to his wonderful Alexandria Quartet but in those novels I found myself caring, here nothing ever got me to care. I have a feeling when this book came ...more
I can understand the mixed reviews for this book. The narration is difficult. I turned to the site for some insight on it. I've been reading the marvelous letters between Durrell and Miller to increase my understanding and I come to this book after having read the Alexandria Quartet, a group of novels that I consider some of the best in literature. What keeps me pushing forward in this book, however, is the language, the truly unique descriptions and insights such as:

Knowing Clare, I can imagine
Sep 01, 2007 Nico rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any angry man coming of age...
The Black Book has come back to me over and over in my life. I first read it in Amsterdam living in a squat in a drizzly november; it is angry and taut and magnificent—terribly flawed and scarred in a way that first novels rarely are these days. Durrell sent the only copy of his MS to Henry Miller, saying that he didn't know what to do with it, and asking Miller to throw it in the Siene when he was done with it; instead Miller took it to Jack Kahane, the founder of Oberlisk Press in Paris and de ...more
Patrick Flanagan
The Black Book was for me, the most exciting book I had ever read at the time. I carried it in my schoolbag, and would secretly show it to school mates. My compositions on 'What I did during my summer holidays' were liberally sprinkled with Durrellesque styles, lines and, where I could get away with it, acts. Highly recommended to callow youth and nostalgic men.
Let me begin by saying that this is an important book for those interested in understanding the mind of Lawrence Durrell. The first novel published under his own name, The Black Book (published in France in 1938) is the work wherein Durrell found his voice as a writer. He wrote it over a period of about sixteen months when he was twenty-four and living on the island of Corfu. In some ways a love letter to his friend and mentor, Henry Miller, it is also a hate letter to England and a general rant ...more
Rupert Owen
May 12, 2008 Rupert Owen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I found Lawrence's prose to be utterly immersing, initially I only got so far into it and then had to start again as so dense is the painted word used by Lawrence that I found myself losing track, or smudged in. However the second attempt from scratch was continuous and I gave up noting words down to look up in the dictionary as Lawrence tends to fill entire sentences with wonderful words for the job that although not knowing half the meanings, I got the picture.

The story is wonderfully crass, f
Cut-rate Henry Miller, which I think even the author realized (he wanted Miller to burn the book after reading). I have to admit, Durrell is a very poetic writer (he used many words that couldn't be found in the dictionary with my Kindle), but stories of la vie boheme -- prostitutes included -- don't appeal to me at this point in my life. For the young.
For some reason, this book didn't satisfy me at all. I don't know if it was Durrell's writing or the "plot" of the story, but it didn't live up to my expectations. It left me the impression that Durrell wrote this book in order to impress his idol, Henry Miller. In some parts, there were meaningful quotes, deep and promising, but in other parts, I couldn't stop the eye-rolling waves that came to my way. ;-)
Overall, 1 out of 5 stars, because I don't even remember what happened in the first twenty
3.5~4 stars.
Something of what you would expect from a young tormented Durrell. The prose is almost embarrassingly purple. Sometimes a violent violet, other times a subdued mauve. It is existential Freudian coming of age prose. It is brooding, angst-ridden prose. Prose that comes from loving Lawrence and Miller. And Baudelaire.
"These abstractions crossing and recrossing the drunken mind; and we on a planet, buzzing in space across the alphabetical stars: the creak of the earth curling away into
Tadzio Koelb
From my short bio of Durrell in British Writers Retrospective: Supplement III:

The Black Book: An Agon ... is the first instance in which Durrell used many of the techniques that would later allow him to investigate issues arising from his vision of the discontinuous self, most notably the layering of multiple narrative voices, and proves a growing fascination with many of the themes that would occupy him for the rest of his life.

An impressionist rather than strictly plot-based novel, The Black B
Aug 03, 2012 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angry young men with big... dictionaries
Recommended to Alan by:, and subsequent work
Ahh, The Black Book. "Shall we write of her in the gnomic aorist?" (p.23) Yes, let's—wait, what? This is a challenging novel, not least because of its casual wielding of an incredibly broad vocabulary. Fortunately, it's easy enough to look words up these days. I knew "gnomic" already—it means "enigmatic" or, in this case, "ambiguous"—but "aorist" totally threw me. Google says it's "(esp. in Greek) An unqualified past tense of a verb without reference to duration or completion of the action." Whi ...more
Heraldic. This word comes up frequently within this work and if one is educated on the definition of this word, one never wonders why.
A triumph! Every author who ever put one word to paper wishes their one of their first literary works was like The Black Book.
A book you cannot put down, and Durrell, or rather his larger than life but dark characters, Lawrence Lucifer and Death Gregory, are with you every step of the way, like good and bad angels perched atop your shoulders - but which is which?
Peter Heinrich
Reading this book was not enjoyable. A bit of historical fluff associated with its publication neatly sums up my problem with it:

Durrell worked for a year on the manuscript, then sent it to Henry Miller proclaiming his dissatisfaction with the final result. He asked Miller to read it, then chuck it in the Seine. (Of course Miller didn't, instead getting it published privately.)

Whatever. If a published novelist (Durrell had two under his belt by the time The Black Book came along) sent me his or
It took a long time to read this book. The problem is not with the book itself. It's just that I'm not quite the right audience. Not because of the sex. It just wasn't written for me. I think it's a good idea to challenge yourself every once in a while. I had plenty of words that I had to look up. I decided to edit and spell-check the epub. Slightly less than half of the words I added to the dictionary I hadn't seen before.

This would be a great book for a poet, because it's about a poet. It woul
Reese Forbes
Erotic in old-fashioned poetic style. This book is in a stream-of-consciousness style and dense with mental images of all sorts. Unusual and enjoyable.
This is the first Lawrence Durrel's book I didn't finish.
I was bored from the first page, and after 20 pages, I still didn't know who were the characters, which relationship they have among them and what was the book about.
I'll try to read it again one day, but not in a near future I think...
Alexa S.
I picked this up free at my university's library book sale and read most of it on a couple of plane flights between Chicago and L.A. The prose can be very dense and the threads of plot hard to pick out, but the value is in losing yourself to the imagery. Sometimes it gets to be a bit much though, and tries to do too much at once, and gets a bit overly pretentious, and in many ways its perspective is very, very dated. A window into some masculine existential angst by a fellow who most certainly k ...more
James Gifford
Dec 09, 2007 James Gifford rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tommy...
Ah, 1938 gets no better, uh, unless you add Murphy, or, uhm, The Death of the Heart, and maybe Three Guineas. Okay, not Three Guineas.

Durrell third book is a wild romp, starting with the Vivari flooding into the harbour, and showing off all the surrealist influences flooding in for him from contrary directions: Paris and Athens. I got stranded on a 16 hour flight from Edmonton to Athens with only this book, and I think I went through it four times, once just in Heathrow. Great fun.
I guess being called The Black Book and having it banned at some point somwhere and it being written by Lawrence Durrell all came together to make me read this, and it was really disappointing. I think he was really trying to be Henry Miller when he wrote this, but no one can really dow Henry Miller but Henry Miller. Durrell got much much better with age (I think this was his first book), so just skip this one.
Greg Cummings
The power and history of the Aegean is intensified in Durell's description of long, listless days spent gazing at it with the literati, pondering its blinding oblivion. “Here in these metal provinces, we are like dead cats bricked in the Wall of China. The winds turn aside afrom us in the dead land, the barren latitiudes.” Made me want to spend a lifetime on the Med.
Well, Greg, I had no problem giving Durrell 2 stars for this book. Sorry, Durrell. I tried but couldn't complete this novel. I got to a point where I didn't know where I was with it. Where were the characters? Lost within the pages, I guess. Apparently somewhere I lost your message. But not to fret because I will soon plunge into your other novels soon.
Peter Brooks
Though this is by no means an excellent, or even a very good, book, it is an interesting read because it seems to me that the Alexandrian Quartet couldn't have been written until he'd got this out of his system.
An amazing first book! And he asked Henry Miller to throw it into the Seine after reading the only manuscript! Thank God that isn't what happened. This book changed my perceptions of modern fiction forever.
Stephen Hawks
I am fond of this book for the shear expressionistic brilliance. comparisons with joyce and William Bouroughs come to mind but it is different from both sensibilities which are in some ways opposites.
Samantha Williams
This is a horrible book. I did not understand what was going on at all. It seemed like all the author could think about was sex. I do not recommend this book to any one, at all.
Jul 14, 2009 Jule marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
this is the first book by one of my favourite authors. a book i take in slowly, just to appreciate its beauty, to enjoy to the fullest ...
Neal Kerrigan
Very well written so much so that one needs to think in order to translate the prose. Ignore the second Book just too bleak and suicidal
Heavy going, hard to read, lots of flowery language if you like that kind of thing. Very odd!Depressing.
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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) Justine (The Alexandria Quartet, #1) Balthazar (The Alexandria Quartet, #2) Mountolive (The Alexandria Quartet, #3) Clea (The Alexandria Quartet, #4)

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