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Justine

(Alexandria Quartet #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,323 ratings  ·  820 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 insp ...more
Paperback, 253 pages
Published July 12th 1991 by Penguin Group (first published 1957)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Rowena
“In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. It’s dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of sea-water licking it’s own wounds,sulking along the mouths of the delta, boiling upon those deserted beaches– empty under the gulls: white scribble on the grey, munched by clouds." - Lawrence Durrell, Justine

Sometimes you discover a new author and know you’re going to be friends for life. A one-sided friendship but you know yo
...more
Dolors
Jun 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of aesthetics
Shelves: read-in-2020
The opening novel of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet didn’t leave me indifferent.
It’s probably one of the best well written books I have ever read. Durrell’s mastery of the word is indisputable. Surreal descriptions of place, evocative and provocative, tinged with poetic melancholy.

“The ripple and flurry of the invisible colonies of birds around us increases. Slowly, painfully, like a half-open door the dawn is upon us, forcing back the darkness.”

This delicious quote is part of quite a long scene
...more
Darwin8u
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I see at last that none of us is properly to be judged for what happened in the past. It is the city which should be judged though we, its children, must pay the price."
- Lawrence Durrell, Justine

description

It feels like reading Henry Miller and John Fowels mixed with Anthony Powell and Paul Bowles, salted, smoked, and flavored with the sex and refuse of Alexandria. It was lush, brutal, beautiful, and horrible all at once. It made me want to go (while knowing Durrell captured a place and time that will n
...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
Paul
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-durrells
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
For Once Four Was Too Few for a Quartet

I decided to re-read "Justine" after something like 30 years before starting the subsequent books of "The Alexandria Quartet" for the first time.

As much as I enjoyed the novel, I suspect that it will acquire even greater meaning and resonance once I've finished the Quartet.

Each volume of the Quartet is named after one of the members of the narrator's peer group in pre-war Alexandria. The first page mentions four friends: Justine and Nessim, Melissa and
...more
Michael
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is suffused with wistful nostalgia, with Mediterranean languor and the love and lust of yesterday. I lived in Egypt many years ago and this book brought back my own nostalgic memories of carefree youth. So perhaps I'm a biased reader. But who isn't? ...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
Annelies
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy the exquisite language and the general atmosphere of Alexandria wich Durrell puts down in this first book of the Alexandria quartet. But for me, though it was the intention, it is not for the whole near 1000 pages full quartet. I have to confess it gets a bit dull for me.
Edita
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lawrence-durrell
Living on this bare promontory, snatched every night from darkness by Arcturus, far from the lime-laden dust of those summer afternoons, I see at last that none of us is properly to be judged for what happened in the past. It is the city which should be judged though we, its children, must pay the price.
*
In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. Its dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of sea-water licking its ow
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is my third time reading this book, but this time I listened. It was amazing how much of the words I had internalized, and I found myself smiling along with some of the parts that were familiar.

I'm looking forward to actually finishing the quartet this time around (fingers crossed) and reading the other parts of the story.

The narrator does a decent job although some of the voices are so heavily accented they are almost hard to understand! The audiobook also had a track at the end where a
...more
David
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Carmen
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
This book is not without merit. It has some real gems - sentences or ideas that are wonderful and crystallize clearly something which is true about the world.

Loving is so much truer when sympathy and not desire makes the match; for it leaves no wounds.

Or

Lovers are never equally matched - do you think? One always overshadows the other and stunts his or her growth so that the overshadowed one must always be tormented by a desire to escape, to be free to grow. Surely this is the only tragic thing
...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those who have sexual fantasies involving Jewish women who smoke cigarettes while naked.
Shelves: english-lit
This is a highly representative work of the fatuous Larry that we know and love from the "Durrells in Corfu". It is a masterpiece of Gnostic eroticism that may have lost its audience due to its outrageous chauvinism. Women exist in Durrell's world to be fetich objects for male writers and poets. Durrell writes of his alluring heroine. "Justine was a walking abstract of the writers and thinkers whom she had loved or admired - but what clever woman is more?" This charming novel certainly has the p ...more
Moses Kilolo
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Bettie
Dedication: To EVE these memorials of her native city

Opening: The sea is high today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of spring.

Beautiful writing going on here.

P.21 phthsic definition:
1. Variant of phthisis.
2. Archaic Any illness of the lungs or throat, such as asthma or a cough. [Middle English ptisike, from Old French ptisique, from phthisicus, consumptive, from Greek phthisikos, from phthisis, wasting away, consumption; see phthisis.


P. 64 Mo
...more
Jonfaith
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean.

Full review of sorts will ensue when the tetralogy is completed.
T.D. Whittle
NB: There are spoilers in my review but, really, the book hasn't much in the way of plot anyway. It's all character study. I normally don't write such long reviews but I've had a lot of thoughts on my love/loathe reaction to this one, and it helps me to write about it, for my own clarification and future reference. I completely understand if others do not care to read through my rambles, and apologise ahead of time for any suffering I cause.

If I were rating Justine only on the quality of the wri
...more
Tony
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british
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
Matt
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Deanna
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Three stars because there is some lovely writing here, though even with that I failed to be transported as I felt I should have been to a place or time.

This felt like something I should have enjoyed more than I did, and frankly struck me as literary soap opera, tending toward the overwrought and preening. It didn’t leave me wanting to read more.
Lobstergirl
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Judy
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who like literary love stories
I first read Justine when I was in high school. I read it for the sex. I don't think I got much else from it except that it was a tragic love story set in the fascinating city of Alexandria, Egypt. Rereading it was a revelation. Durrell's writing is exquisite though in another way so desultory that I could only read about thirty pages before falling into a deep sleep, no matter the time of day. But the characters!

Justine herself is a deeply troubled woman who refuses to respond to psychoanalys
...more
Angie
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jacob Appel
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Justine" is not an easy book by any standard --the language is often baroque, the underlying ideas complex and challenging -- but it is one of those rare, brilliant novels that creates an entire self-contained universe. The lost world of multinational, pluralistic pre-war Alexandria, Egypt comes to life in all of its mysterious romance. Durrell has a particular talent for crafting memorable minor characters: Mnemjian, the kyphotic barber; Capodistria, the one-eyed lecher, Clea, a celibate lesbi ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Greg
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of beautiful, quotable novels about love and pain.
"Show me the man who invented the human heart. Then show me where he was hung," a certain character says. That's such a dark thought it hurts. Or when a woman asked of her husband if he was falling in love with another woman, he replies, "It's worse than that." After all, the author writes there are five sexes in Alexandria and sets us down the path of who really loves who. But then there is the weird: a character has a rubber woman manufactured, fills her with water, names her Sabrina, and is b ...more
Cphe
A beautifully written novel set in Alexandria between the great wars. The affairs of a group of diverse people who find connection. It's the setting of the sultry but often seedy Alexandria that is the highlight of the novel. Well worth a look at. ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Intoxication

Half-way through this book, I must confess, I was about to put it aside as hopelessly esoteric and self-indulgent. But the last 100 pages began to take a different character, and by the time I came to the great duck hunt (an almost Tolstoyan set piece that contains the main action of the novel), I couldn't put it down. And I found myself so moved by the brief final section, which bids a temporary farewell to the more important characters, that I went straight to the bookstore to buy
...more
Jimmy
Jul 07, 2014 rated it liked it
“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
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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

Other books in the series

Alexandria Quartet (4 books)
  • Balthazar (The Alexandria Quartet #2)
  • Mountolive (The Alexandria Quartet #3)
  • Clea (The Alexandria Quartet #4)

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