September 6, 2013

Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria home to be demolished


“To a certain extent, being a colonial, you have these wild romantic dreams about ‘Home,'” Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) admitted in an interview with The Paris Review in 1959. But now his romantic residence in Alexandria, where he began The Alexandria Quartet, is scheduled to be demolished.

Durrell was a novelist, poet, translator, travel writer, and dramatist. He is well known for his lively forty-five year correspondence with Henry Miller.

The Alexandria Quartet features the city as its protagonist, including scenes on Prophet Daniel Street (where book stalls were destroyed last year), Coronation Street, and Kom El-Deka. From the first book in the Quartet, Justine, Alexandria is described as “the city which used us as its flora—precipitated in us conflicts which were hers and which we mistook for our own: beloved Alexandria!”

Durrell resided in this building in Moharram Bey from 1942 to 1956. He lived on the top floor until after the Suez Crisis, when he left Alexandria for good. Durrell separated from his wife, Eve Cohen, in 1955, slightly before his departure; he published Justine shortly after, in 1957.

This is a fine moment to revisit the collection of photographs Sam Jordison published in The Guardian last year of Durrell’s disappearing Alexandria.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.