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

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  161 Ratings  ·  25 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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Dec 02, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2012 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 24, 2013 DoctorM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
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.
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
Mar 23, 2015 Kerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 08, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stuff
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.
Apr 07, 2010 Fionnuala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Peter Heinrich
Aug 17, 2011 Peter Heinrich rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, humor
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.
Leah Bernie
Dec 18, 2015 Leah Bernie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun read

This book was witty and smart throughout. It was recommended to me by my aunt, a member of the diplomatic corps. The author's creativity made me look forward to each little story.
Aug 23, 2013 Marin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 20, 2013 Seba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. :)
Slender but amusing. Includes scenes from the former Yugoslavia.
Jun 29, 2014 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful, funny. Typically British!
Lynne King
Just a fun book.
Oct 15, 2015 Africableu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charming. Just an all-around delight that made me laugh. I really enjoyed this book.
Oct 16, 2013 N rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Forsøksvise humoristiske skisser av diplomatlivet i Beograd tidlig på 50-tallet, men ikke veldig morsomme
Sep 23, 2008 Naomi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another of my all time favorites. Yes - I like satire.
Mar 04, 2009 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny.
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.
David Smith
Jul 25, 2011 David Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely funny. Had to stop reading at times because I was laughing so hard. Got to find Stiff Upper Lip and Sauve Qui Peut.
Aug 20, 2013 Cecilia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Diplomacy as you never thought it would be - a splendid rompous gathering of characters and such a laugh.
Jun 04, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Enjoyable little collection of Short Stories from his "Sketches of Diplomatic Life".
Nov 19, 2009 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very funny pokes at expats and locals alike; especially funny when read "abroad"
Ann Ranhem
Ann Ranhem rated it really liked it
Sep 16, 2012
Mark Noce
Mark Noce rated it really liked it
Dec 24, 2015
Helena Van
Helena Van rated it liked it
Jul 03, 2016
Inés Chamarro
Inés Chamarro rated it really liked it
Jun 01, 2014
Mats rated it really liked it
Jul 03, 2017
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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

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“Bessie was News, Leaders, and Gossip; Enid was Features, Make-up and general Sub. Whenever they were at a loss for copy they would mercilessly pillage ancient copies of Punch or Home Chat. An occasional hole in the copy was filled with a ghoulish smudge - local block-making had clearly indicated that somewhere a poker-work fanatic had gone quietly out of his mind. In this way the Central Balkan Herald was made up every morning and then delivered to the composition room where the chain-gang quickly reduced it to gibberish. MINISTER FINED FOR KISSING IN PUBIC. WEDDING BULLS RING OUT FOR PRINCESS. QUEEN OF HOLLAND GIVES PANTY FOR EX-SERVICE MEN. MORE DOGS HAVE BABIES THIS SUMMER IN BELGRADE. BRITAINS NEW FLYING-GOAT.” 1 likes
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