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The Black Book

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  493 ratings  ·  58 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 a ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Olympia Press (first published 1937)
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3.39  · 
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 ·  493 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MJ by: Scribble Orca
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
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Většina knihy se čte jako za sebe poskládáný statusy takový tý pipinky, kterou má každej na Facebooku mezi přáteli a která si myslí, že je reinkarnace Baudelaira s kozičkama a člověk čte ty její statusy ze sebemrskačatví. Ale 250 stran těchle výtoků je moc.

Ale jak by řek mladej Durrell: "Její ústa jsou jako popelníky plný vajglů odtažitosti." Bohužel je ale většina knihy jeden velkej popelník, se kterým jsem měl co dělat, abych ho dočetl. To, že to napsal Durrell ve 24 letech a pochválil mu to H
Patrick Flanagan
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Lukáš Palán
Apr 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
To mi ho vyndej. Když už si myslím, že jsem dost starej na to číst nějaký knížky a že už umím dost cizích slov, třeba tripartita, debrecínka, kvartál, lego, a tak, najednou se objeví literární guláš, kterej mi v hlavě udělá pořádnej lionel messi.

Nevím co to mělo bejt, o čem to mělo bejt a proč to mělo bejt. 50% času jsem žasnul nad větama, který dokázal Durrell vyprodukovat a jak to hezky kroužilo dokola, 50% jsem času jsem se chtěl zabít, jak mě to prudilo. Ve finále tedy dávám 3 hvězdy, což j
Tadzio Koelb
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-uk
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.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
The mumblings of a sex addict delirious madman. Didn't make any sense, I couldn't even find the will to bother with it anymore than simply reading the words.

Frankly, I enjoyed studying for my exams much more.

If you ever find yourself wanting to read this book, just turn around and do anything else. Your time would then be much more meaningfully spent.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Essentially a 200-page-long ramble with not much happening and more-than-a-bit-confusing surrealist overtones. But, my God, Durrell's writing. It swirls and twirls and flutters about, dirty, beautiful, splendid, indecent. If this book were a woman, you'd be drooling sleepless nights over her, regardless of your sexual preference.
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  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
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Yuliya Gorodnycha
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Take out the glass eye, unscrew the legs, the arms. Remove the wig, the teeth, the silver plate in the scull, the tubes in the anus and abdomen, and just climb into bed and wait for summer.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful prose, if you like reading about someone's wetdreams.
Steve Alton
I bought this from the White House in Kalami, where Durrell wrote it; seemed like a neat thing to do. The book itself, though... I enjoyed Prospero’s Cell for its rich language but was put off by some of the long philosophical discussions, which seemed to confirm Gerald Durrell’s description of his brother as a bit of a pretentious arse. The Black Book clinches it. The rich language is still there, turned up to eleven, but the subject matter? I’m no clearer what Durrell was trying to say at the ...more
John Nelson
Dude, what the hell was this book about? I honestly have no idea. I think it was about a group of bohemian perverts living in some weird hotel. But then there was all this psychedelic surrealistic junk that got me lost. At some point I *think* the author met some beautiful black woman, one of his friends came out of the closest and started cross dressing, and the one of the other characters got married and settled down. Then there was Gregory, the other narrator. He seemed to have known the same ...more
Ariadne Deborah Fassel
This is one of those books that need to be studied in a literature class, with a good dictionary at hand, to be fully appreciated. Surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness, and fairly depressing, set in England after WWI. P.G. Wodehouse was writing about the same era, but with a markedly different tone. Frankly, I prefer the books of Gerald Durrell. I suppose I should give it more stars, But I can't say that I liked reading it.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Some readers have appreciated the verve, poetry and sheer outrageousness of the young Durrell's outpourings, but while he sets out to taunt and shock middle-class England he remains tangled in his own web of snobbery and misogyny. The result is a foolish mess. Fortunately, he eventually harnessed his talents and wrote The Alexandria Quartet, which is far better.
Angel Serrano
Original novela de juventud en la que la obscenidad, el sexo y el surrealismo se mezclan en un paisaje inglés y global que se superpone. Con extenuantes citas literarias, pero un chorro de verbo fuerte y agresivo.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Someone else has described this book as a rant-cum-ramble. Too rambling and ranty for this reader...
Анастасия Руднева
Первая книга Даррелла. Крутая. Как первый альбом рок-звезды: потом будут шедевры, но этот останется самым драйвовым.
Barry Fulton
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating. One part Henry Miller, one part James Joyce, one part ramblings to a shrink, and the balance in need of a sharp eyed editor. Nonetheless, the work of a 22-year old genius.
Charlotte Basnett
The writing was fantastic but I am unsure what happened, I got lost in the language and imagery
Aug 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Do you remember the first time you opened a thesaurus and, suddenly, you were desperate to start using all the words? Even if you didn't know what they meant, they were replacements for words you thought you knew and it made you sound more intelligent, at least in your own head? Welcome to The Black Book.

This book is the straw that breaks me from having to read any more books that I don't understand and couldn't care less about. I assume that when this was written all the talk about vaginas and
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: i-own
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
Peter Heinrich
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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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
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“With all its imperfections lying heavy on its head, I can’t help being attached to it because in the writing of it I first heard the sound of my own voice, lame and halting perhaps, but nevertheless my very own. This is an experience no artist ever forgets —the birth cry of a newly born baby of letters, the genuine article.” 1 likes
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