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Esprit de Corps: Sketches from Diplomatic Life (Antrobus stories #1)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Eleven charming, delicate sketches of diplomatic life in service of the crown

After decades spent representing Britain around the globe, Antrobus has earned a shirtful of medals and the right to pass afternoons in his London club, musing over old times. His memory is long, and every old embarrassment still rankles—no matter how ridiculous. The incident with the Yugoslav gh
ebook, 90 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Open Road Media (first published December 9th 1957)
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What can I say? For any who have spent time pushing cookies under the watchful eyes of a protocol officer, this stuff is hilarious. I spent more time pushing goat roasted over an open fire in the mountains of Nuristan than in embassy ballrooms, but I still found myself laughing out loud. Durrell has mastered the Cantabrigian pretentiousness of a certain type of British F.O. professional (and you know who you are), although he failed his entrance exams to Cambridge. Of course, he went on to write ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Where do I begin? Esprit de Corps, a short (89 pages) collection of stories about life in the Foreign Office, especially as lived in the Balkans, is one of the funniest I've encountered, and I've encountered James Thurber, P G Wodehouse, Saki, and many others. It is the first of three little books collectively called Antrobus Complete. It is almost impossible to believe the author of the Alexandria Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea)j which is so dismal I've been unable to get through ...more
Charming little sketches about life in a very Wodehouse version of the British diplomatic service somewhere in an imaginary Balkans. Funny, delightful, and occasionally quite sardonic. Worth finding.
The wit and humor of this book rivals those of Patrick Dennis. The jokes and puns are so slyly interwoven with the story that if you blink you'll miss them. But they roll, one right after another. This is, as Durrell may have said, a "reading with writhings," but writhings with laughter rather than agony. Of course, some of what is written is offensive to today's sensibilities, but the reader understands that the narrator of the story is not at all concerned about giving proper respect to anyone ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Well, one cannot call it Great Literature, and he is rather patronising about the Yugoslavs (though in fairness the British diplomats are equally ludicrous stereotypes); it is, however, laugh-out-loud funny in places. The inside front cover quotes John Betjeman saying in a review, "I have not laughed at a new humorous book so much since the days of Stephen Potter's Gamesmanship" (which is a bit ambiguous as to whether or not he actually found ...more
Curt Hopkins Hopkins
Way funnier than a series of "humourous" anecdotes about mid-century British diplomatic life has any right to be. Still, it's a series of humourous anecdotes about mid-century British diplomatic life and, as much as I love Durrell, I am unlike to read any more of them.
Cooper Cooper
In this satire about the British foreign service just after World War II, Durrell caricatures the British character—the class pretensions and the emotional reserve—that led to a great deal of eccentricity in personality and very odd behavior abroad, especially in those exiled to the bizarre and troglodytic world of the Serbs (most of Durrell’s stories are set in Yugoslavia). The sketches are on the whole amusing, even the fantastical ones, but to fully appreciate them I suspect that one has to ...more
Slender but amusing. Includes scenes from the former Yugoslavia.
Delightful, funny. Typically British!
I was recommended this years ago as the best fiction about diplomacy. Unfortunately that's true (though Scoop runs a close second, even if it's really about journalism). If I hadn't worked in the Foreign Service I might have thought it charming, but the all too true tales of crazy bureaucracies, protocols and diplomatic officers instead gave rise to upsetting Balkan flashbacks.
What is diplomatic life other than an extended and high stakes round of customer service? These vignettes illustrate beautifully the nail-biting world of people-pleasing and representing the Empire. The humour twinkles and sparkles, though I couldn't help but occasionally be filled with sympathy for the poor privileged prisses in the FO.
Izuzetno zabavna knjiga o doživljajima ovog velikog engleskog pisca kao diplomata u Beogradu. Prije dvadeset godian pročitao sam je u jednom danu. Kako se u zadnje vrijeme družim s diplomatima moram priznati da nije puno pretjerao u svojem prikazu diplomata i diplomacije.
I've just finished and would say I'm sure Durrell's ego was higher than himself. But, hell yeah, it was one of the best dark humor non-fictions I've ever read.

PS Don't read in public and get some polka music as a supplementary. :)
Peter Heinrich
Certainly a product of its time, the humor in this book relies heavily on social, cultural, and racial stereotypes. It's amusing, but surprisingly physical, considering Durrell's reputation as a great wit.
David Smith
Extremely funny. Had to stop reading at times because I was laughing so hard. Got to find Stiff Upper Lip and Sauve Qui Peut.
Forsøksvise humoristiske skisser av diplomatlivet i Beograd tidlig på 50-tallet, men ikke veldig morsomme
Diplomacy as you never thought it would be - a splendid rompous gathering of characters and such a laugh.
Very funny pokes at expats and locals alike; especially funny when read "abroad"
Jun 21, 2008 Will marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
This and two others--Suave Qui Pent and Stiff Upper Lip--are supposed to be pretty funny.
Enjoyable little collection of Short Stories from his "Sketches of Diplomatic Life".
Another of my all time favorites. Yes - I like satire.
Gerrit marked it as to-read
Sep 27, 2015
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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
More about Lawrence Durrell...

Other Books in the Series

Antrobus stories (3 books)
  • Stiff Upper Lip
  • Sauve qui peut
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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