David's Reviews > Balthazar

Balthazar by Lawrence Durrell
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's review
May 22, 2011

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Read in May, 2011

After Justine, I didn't necessarily want to read on in this series, but, even though this book is a retelling more than it is an expansion of that original, troublesome plot, I found it much more engaging.

The title character, Balthazar, is responding to the errors of the original book with his own take, and so Durrell embraces the memoirist's topic--the sponginess of truth. The main character--Darley, I think (name mentioned once)--has escaped Alexandria and is recounting his misjudgment of the city with the help of Balthazar's notes; but he seems more trustworthy, more complex than in the first book. And a few of Durrell's/Darley's original characters (the line between author, character, and narrator is blurred--as in The French Lieutenant's Woman) get much more space. The writer Pursewarden and the harelipped Narouz are the most interesting--the first for his gin-soaked amorality and the second for his innocent desire for Clea (the title character of the fourth book).

I still don't really like Durrell's style, which seems more intuitive than intentional, and this comes to a head in a very strange, contextless carnival scene. Luckily, I was just barely able to follow the murder-mystery plot of that section, so I didn't get completely lost in the wild descriptions of caped, androgynous Egyptians.

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