Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Balthazar” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Balthazar (Alexandria Quartet #2)

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,850 ratings  ·  125 reviews
The deeply affecting second novel of theAlexandria Quartet, which boldly questions perception and the nature of contemporary love

In Alexandria, Egypt, in the years before World War II, Durrell’s narrator, Darley, seeks to fully understand his sexual obsession with two women: the infamous Justine, and Melissa, a dancer. In Darley’s conversations with Balthazar, a doctor and
ebook, 256 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Open Road Media (first published 1958)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Balthazar, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Balthazar

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
The second book in the Alexandria Quartet, still seen through the central character the writer Darley. He is now living on a remote Greek island a few years after the events of the first novel. Durrell’s narrative and descriptive powers create an atmosphere you can almost touch and smell. Balthazar arrives with some notes/descriptions/ information about the events of Justine which sort of fill in gaps, create new perspectives, answer some puzzles and create new puzzles. The bulk of the novel is ...more
Ian Agadada-Davida
First Impression Followed by a Second

Initially, I suspected that this second volume of "The Alexandria Quartet" might be inferior to the first.

However, having finished it, I don't really think of it as a wholly different work. Its very nature and purpose is to tweek "Justine". It's both supplementary and complementary.

What emerges (in the mind of the reader) isn't so much a second distinct work, but a compound of the two. My memory of the first is now irreversibly altered by the experience
الجزء الثانى من رباعية الاسكندريه.
أفضل من الجزء الأول بكل تأكيد, والتركيز على المدينه نفسها أعلى من الجزء الأول
اللغه رغم ترجمتها جيده
والاحداث والتفاصيل لم تختلف طبيعتها كثيرا عن الجزء الأول.
شخصيات العمل متطورة جدا وأفضل مافى الروايه والتطور الأكثر وضوحا عن لجزء الأول
فى المجمل عمل جيد ضمن رباعية روائيه قد تكون من أعظم ما قرأت
This is the second novel of four in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. I am glad that I read it, for it clarifies much that was enigmatic in the first novel, Justine, and it raises my estimation of the latter. Again the narrator is the author, Darley, now removed from Alexandria and living on an isolated Greek island with a small girl child, the daughter of his dead former lover, the tubercular prostitute Melissa. The little girl, who plays no part in the present narrative, is also the daughter of Ne ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a review of the audiobook, which I received in exchange for an honest review from Brilliance Audio.

I originally read the second book of the Alexandria Quartet in 2009, and stopped without finishing the quartet. My goal is to get through all four books this year, but it is definitely slower going since I'm using the audio version. Narrator Jack Klaff makes great efforts to distinguish between characters but sometimes that makes me really hate the time we spend with some of them. Scobie wi

I'm beginning to think Durrell is one of the great writers of the 20th century. Really, the writing is just incredible. Like music on the page. ("An Arab woman makes my bed, beating the pillows till they fluff out like the white of egg under a whisk...") "Baroque," I think George Steiner called it. Durrell said that the second two novels in the quartet weren't sequels, because that indicates a relationship in time; rather, they are siblings. (The fourth novel, he says, is a legitimate sequel.) Y
I am just a refugee from the long slow toothache of English life. It is terrible to love life so much you can hardly breathe!

A fattened, more comprehensive and weezing approach will occur when I finish the Quartet.
Bir yapıyı yavaş yavaş kurmak gibi ya da iyice derine dalmak gibi.. kalan iki kitabı da okumak isteği...
Nate D
Durrell occupies a strange position at the fulcrum of modernity. His style is often baroque and prone to exoticism (at first, he evokes 19th century British colonial literature above all else), but this volume, the second of his best known Alexandria Quartet, reveals more modern preoccupations besides. A perceptive character observes modern art's debt to theoretical physics, and so it is: the novel's tangle of disinterested and capricious love affairs (modern and age-old) shift and squirm in (qu ...more
Simply the saddest, most beautiful re-telling of the events covered in Justine, yet with a richness that enhances the previous book and surpasses it.

It's full of charm and musings on love, loss, life and the familiar yet painful uncovering of news that you didn't want to hear. All the while it adds a depth and complexity to the overall narrative (of the Quartet) that builds an excitement about the coming two volumes.

Now I've finished the second book of the Quartet on my second reading I'm overj
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in June 2005.

The introduction to this novel, the second in the Alexandria Quartet, briefly explains one of the structural ideas behind the novels. I'm not sure of the extent to which this is meant to be tongue in cheek, because it is the sort of idea often found in satires of intellectual writers who don't understand much science. The explanation given for a quartet of novels the first three of which cover the same events from different perspectives is that t
What is Balthazar? It is certainly impossible to read without first devouring its 'sibling' Justine. The entire concept is that Balthazar - a supporting character from that book - read that book (the narrator Darley's memoirs) and is offering an annotation of them from a different point-of-view.

You could perhaps describe this book as a story about character, not plot, but that would be deceptive: the characters are the plot. The journeys they make, the changes of motivation and destination, the
إن صعوبة الإبحار في جوستين من شدة التعري النفسي تجعلك تتحسس أقدام عينيك و رأسك وأنت تولج لنص أخر له علاقة بشكل أو بأخر بنفس النص

يبدو النص أسهل في التنقل بين سطوره ولكن بعد تمعن تكتشف أنه ليس سهلا و لكنها روحك التي تعودت أسلوب الترجمة و التتشبيهات الشعرية القاسية. إن روعة هذه الرباعية في رأيي ليس أن اسمها رباعية الإسكندرية و تحمل منها و تصفها و ذلك لأنها تصف الإسكندرية بعين غير مصرية فربما لا نجد بين السطور سوى بعض اأسماء الأحياء التي نعرفها أما روح الإسكندرية التي تحوطنا ....حقيقة لم أجدها ...إن
I read Justine ages ago, like when I was 17, so I can't really comment on the comparison between it and Balthazar, but the book has a great many of the things I remember liking about Lawrence Durrell: his strong sense of place, and his writing style that reminds me of a lemon custard left out on an afternoon terrace, washed down with the last remnants of a gin and tonic that's now mostly ice melt.

Delicate, impressionistic, nearly plotless, and with a weird-as-hell carnival scene towards the end,
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the second book in Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, and I can't imagine reading it without reading Justine first. Even having read Justine not too long ago, I kept feeling a need to go back and re-read to try to fit Balthazar into the context of the first novel.

Interesting, new angles and information, and a demonstration of how perspective changes a story!
Balthazar stands the least on its own merits as a novel as the other 3 entries in this series, and as such, is the most formless in its own way, events of importance creating their own tenuous narrative links instead of progressing chronologically. In a way it feels like the most "successful" of Durrell's experimental storytelling in that it is all about illumination through another perspective. It is not a direct telling either of Balthazar's Interlinear, but an unique interweaving of his versi ...more
Las partes en las que relata el viaje de Nessim a ver a su familia y, sobre todo, la parte centrada en el carnaval son de lo mejor que he leído en mucho tiempo. ¡A por el tercero!
Christopher Rush
If memory serves, and surely it doesn't, Balthazar is a bit easier to read and "get," in some fashion, than Justine. Having perhaps slaked his appetite and Modernistic obscurantism with Justine, Durrell gets down sooner than later to full, lengthy storytelling. I suspect many of the critics who laud Durrell uphill and down are distantly related to the denizens of the Emperor's empire: despite seeing just about nothing to see, they have no desire to appear ignorant or uncultured in front of their ...more
Jan 05, 2014 Lily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lily by: Summer I was 21
Shelves: read-2014
Not tonight. This second book in The Alexandria Quartet has to "soak" for awhile in this read of it again after many years. It didn't feel to me as if Balthazar tore apart the story of Justine with his "Interlinear" as much as the story suggests -- more just added depth and perspective to what was a perhaps a naive, infatuated, self-serving view. Stories of colorful and enigmatic secondary characters emerged here. Strangely, not sure I have a clear understanding of who Balthazar is as a char ...more
John David
The abridged version of events will be difficult to understand without a summary knowledge of what happened in “Justine,” so please read my review of that novel, the “sibling companion” of “Balthazar,” for a fuller appreciation of both. This review also gives away plot spoilers for both.

“Balthazar” continues the narrative started in the first volume of the Alexandria Quartet, “Justine.” This time, we read of many of the events recounted in “Justine” from another perspective, that of the psychiat
May 02, 2011 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of 20th century literary fiction

This is the second volume of Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet." He calls it not a sequel to Justine but a sibling. Balthazar was the mystic philosopher in Justine who brought many of the characters together in regular meetings for study of the Cabal and other writings.

In this version of the story, most of which is a letter from Balthazar to the writer of both novels, new light is shed on the relationships between the characters. I found it more readable and engaging than Justine. Durrel
Bradley Cannon
"If things were always what they seemed, how impoverished would be the imagination of man." With these words, Balthazar delivers startling new information that potentially changes everything, though it all makes perfect sense if a reader stops to think about it. To better understand, the narrator goes back to the beginning to explain many things in an entirely new light.

I enjoyed this premise, and there is certainly still more than enough new material to keep any astute reader interested. I mar
Balthazar is the second book in the Quartet. After I finished Justine, I surprised myself by going out to immediately buy the rest of the Quartet.

Balthazar has the same narrator as Justine, the same hapless Englishman who had an affair with a beautiful but damaged woman in Egypt between the two world wars. Now the narrator lives on a Greek island a few years later, and his "memoirs" of the affair had been published. Balthazar, a friend of his from those days, sends him a long letter, teasing th
I just finished this a couple of days ago and am still thinking about it now. The story progresses from more viewpoints of the people closely involved with the main characters. The language is ever more lush and rich and the scene setting is vivid and hugely imaginative (I almost felt like I was there (and not in a tent in Windermere!)). It being the 2nd book, I was straight in there with no introductions necessary - only a developing impression now of the central characters and their flaws, sec ...more
This is volume II of Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet"!
In "Balthazar", the same story as the story told in "Justin", is revisited from another point of view, through another's eyes, even if the narrator is unchanged. New details are revealed that warp the story to such an extent that another reality emerges.
It is an exercise in doubt, memories, emotions recollected through various prisms. It is subtle, captivating and so clever.
Of course, this very premise opens up a whole new underlying theme, tha
In Balthazar, Darley is removed from the events of Justine by time and place. He is living on an island a few years after the fact and is visited by an old friend whose arrival and correspondence prompts him to revisit events in a new light, from different perspectives. The fog of love and naivety which permeates the first volume is largely lifted. Persons only lightly touched receive more focus and depth, events hinted at are given substance and clarify the web of events which took place.

The c
Michael Cayley
The second of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet of novels, every bit as good as the first, Justine. It is set in a cosmopolitan Alexandria in the same time period as Justine, just before WW2, with many of the same events and relationships seen in a different perspective and reinterpreted. It is as if Durrell is showing us how understanding of events is always relative, depending on your viewpoint. The writing is superb, with some brilliant set pieces, for instance descriptions of Carnival. L ...more
I was crazy about Justine, and I still thinking it's a greater book than Balthazar, though I can't figure out whether it's because Justine, being the first book, is more polished, or because in Balthazar we are excavating in the ruins of Justine and finding further material that of course further reveals the relative nature of our interpretation of the world but cannot be as fresh as that first discovery.
Either way the writing is still wonderful. Precise with lovely adjectives. I'm incredible je
Second of four in the Alexandria Quartet; review of the Quartet forthcoming. In the meantime, another favorite quote:

"Fact is unstable by its very nature. Narouz once said to me that he loved the desert because there 'the wind blew out one's footsteps like candle-flames.' So it seems to me does reality. How then can we hunt for the truth?"
Balthazar is the heart of the Quartet. There is no plot; it doesn’t need one because Justine gave us that: the progression of the narrator Darley’s various love affairs from the beginning, to the duck shoot, and beyond. So, the plot being fait accompli freed Balthazar from that chore and allowed Durell to display in-depth riffs on the characters and on any other damned thing that crossed his creative mind. And he does this in vivid, sensual prose sprinkled with welcome doses of laugh-out-loud hu ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Alternate book cover 10 16 Aug 07, 2014 03:47PM  
  • At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4)
  • The Big Money (U.S.A., #3)
  • The Towers of Silence (The Raj Quartet, #3)
  • A High Wind in Jamaica
  • The Levant Trilogy
  • The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, Vol 1: Sense & Sensibility/Pride & Prejudice/Mansfield Park
  • Something To Remember Me By: Three Tales
  • The Suffrage of Elvira
  • The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library Paperbacks)
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
More about Lawrence Durrell...

Other Books in the Series

Alexandria Quartet (4 books)
  • Justine (The Alexandria Quartet, #1)
  • Mountolive (The Alexandria Quartet, #3)
  • Clea (The Alexandria Quartet, #4)

Share This Book

“Odd, isn't it? He really was the right man for her in a sort of way; but then as you know, it is a law of love that the so-called 'right' person always comes to soon or too late.” 29 likes
“Very few people realise that sex is a psychic and not a physical act. The clumsy coupling of human beings is simply a biological paraphrase of this truth - a primitive method of introducing minds to each other, engaging them. But most people are stuck in the physical aspect, unaware of the poetic rapport which it so clumsily tries to teach.” 23 likes
More quotes…