First published in 1937, two years after Durrell took up residence on the Greek island Kerkyra, Panic Spring broke with the realist tradition in 1930s novels and shows the young author's first attempts to extend High Modernist innovations in rural and personal landscapes. Cubist, surrealist, and imagist techniques merge with rural life and the peasant village that an international group of expatriates are led to by a curiously Pan-like boatman. Unavailable for seven decades, this new edition of Panic Spring shows Durrell's emerging passion for Mediterranean life and the Greek world as well as his first attempts to articulate a political-aesthetic direction distinct from his peers, George Orwell and W.H. Auden. Under the shadow of financial and political ruin, on the verge of revolution and war, the one chance summer depicted in Panic Spring will make readers reconsider the impetus and interests behind Durrell's late modernist masterpieces, The Alexandria Quartet, The Black Book, and Prospero's Cell.
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James Gifford is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the University Core at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver.Review:
Durrell s career as a writer stretches from the 1930s to the 1990s. He was nominated for the Nobel prize and widely translated and canonized as an important British late Modernist novelist, poet and travel writer, best known for his Alexandria Quartet and Bitter Lemons. But this only tells half the story and indeed, more recently, attempts have been made to read Durrell backwards, from his last works, especially The Avignon Quintet. The result was a reappraisal of Durrell as a (proto)postmodernist author both from an aesthetic and an ideological point of view. The republication of Panic Spring in this fine, annotated and commented edition will give modernist criticism in general, and Durrell criticism in particular, another turn and will shift critical attention to the (equally crucial) transition from Durrell s early modernist and surrealist phase to his late classical modernist peak. Panic Spring will thus find its place within the literary and cultural history of the first half of the twentieth-century as an important missing link, accentuating the continuity of Durrell's aesthetic and ideological development as a writer and as an influential cultural figure between the wars and beyond. --Stefan Herbrechter, author of Lawrence Durrell, Postmodernism and the Ethics of Alterity (1999)
Durrell s early writings are usually read through the prism of The Alexandria Quartet, which seems fair enough given Durrell s own dismissal of Pied Piper of Lovers and Panic Spring as wishy-washy stuff and the fact of their being long out of print. But Panic Spring with its minimalist plot, discontinuous narrative within which each major character has a chapter, and spatial (cubistic) rather than linear structure both seeks a serious engagement with Durrell s modernist predecessors (Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, among others) and demonstrates the validity of Henry Miller s observation that places have affected Durrell as much or more than people. Escaping England to write a book on Quietism on a small Greek island, its protagonist personifies Durrell s first depiction of his islomania, an ailment, as he explains in a later book on Rhodes, as yet unclassified by medical science.... A rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit, it causes its victims to find islands somehow irresistible. It was a disease he flaunted proudly, and complexly, in subsequent works. These new scholarly editions provide a welcome opportunity to take the full measure of Durrellean beginnings. --Alan Warren Friedman, Thaman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, author of Party Pieces: Oral Storytelling and Social Performance in Joyce and Beckett (2007)
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