The dazzling second volume of The Alexandria Quartet—an enthralling and deeply disturbing work of gorgeous surfaces and endless deceptions.
In Alexandra, in the years before the Second World War, an exiled Irish schoolteacher seeks to unravel his sexual obsession with two women: the tubercular café dancer, Melissa, and Justine, the alluring Jewish wife of a wealthy Coptic Christian. What emerges in his sessions with the psychiatrist Balthazar, however, is something far more complex—and unfathomably more sinister—than neurosis. Lawrence Durrell’s kaleidoscopic narrative ushers us into a world in which no perception is reliable—and love itself is always an act of treachery.
“Durrell is one of the very best novelists of our time. . . . He has a sensuous, vigorous style that I have not found equaled by any other novelist today. . . . A spontaneous, resourceful new beauty that any sensitive reader will almost certainly love.”—The New York Book Review
“It is difficult to sum up Balthazar; it will not be contained. It spills or slips away like smoke. The sheer writing is superb. . . . A wonderful book, a book to read many times.”—The Houston Post
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Balthazar" is the second of the sibling tomes of Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet". The novel allows the reader to dive again deep into Alexandrian life and see everything what happens already in "Justine" from a different angle.
Darley, the narrator, still living in seclusion on the remote Greek Island, has sent the story (i.e. Justine) to one of the Alexandrian friends, Balthazar, the Jewish, gay doctor interested in philosophy and theology, initiator of the Kabbalah group, suspected of spying activity. Balthazar during his short visit on the island gives Darley the manuscript back together with a substantial amount of notes, which (with Darley's comments) are reconstituted in this volume. Darley was prompted to add a lot of the notes, as, reflecting upon them, he realized that despite his doubts, expressed in "Justine", many things he took for granted are completely different than he thought.
Balthazar sees the events described in "Justine" from his own...
As I read the second of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, I first looked for another focus. (I had been so impressed with the watercolor decriptions of the first.) In the beginning of the novel, I thought Durrell had decided to be more desciptive in the area of sounds and thought he had impishly personified this goal with a focus on a strange talking parrot. However, I was soon drawn into the story. I forget my efforts at intellectualizing and found that the characters had broadened for me. I wanted to read about what was happening to them and what had happened to them. I found myself changed from a distant observer into one who empathized with the characters. I noticed that I had been jealous of Justine in the first novel and found myself happy that she was no longer worshipped in the second novel. Durrell's desciptions went past lush and ripe into fascinating, fermenting, and magnetic. Intrigue is introduced. Other sides of incidents are shown. I loved this book and...
BALTHAZAR, the second novel in Lawrence Durrell's ALEXANDRIA QUARTET, is a less daunting proposition than its predecessor, JUSTINE. The author points out that the first three novels (these two plus MOUNTOLIVE) all overlap in time, looking at the same events from different perspectives; only the fourth book, CLEA, is a true sequel. Nonetheless, it is essential to read JUSTINE first; the greater clarity and expansiveness of BALTHAZAR is possible only because the reader already knows most of the characters and events; there is not enough explanation for the...
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