I Read this Book Every Year
For a long time now I’ve carried around a perfect story in my head. I think of it as a rule of living, a rite of passage, and a moral conviction all rolled into one.
The story consists of a person who leaves behind the routines of their normal life and disappears into the world, far from home, to claim their freedom.
There — out there! — all is vital. I see an island in the sea where the light is brighter. Every experience is indispensable, good or bad, and it all feeds back into the creative energy that prompted the journey in the first instance.
I have several sources for this perfect story, but primary among them is a book I return to every year, and that is Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell.
The book reaffirms something important to me: a belief in widening my perspective beyond my own circumstances.
What Durrell is particularly good at is observing the sensory experience, and reminding me that even the smallest details are worth lingering over. I feel it in every word of his book.
“Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins” — so the first line runs, which immediately takes me away…
Completely Cut Off
When, in 1935, the British writer Lawrence Durrell moved to the Greek island of Corfu, he was a young man of 23, newly married and with a half-finished novel underway. He lived there among the green plumes of cypresses and the thick, gnarled shadows of olive trees.
In the spring of 1936, Lawrence and his wife Nancy made their way to the northern reaches, wishing to explore the remoter regions of the island.
“I felt we’d been living too near the crowds,” Nancy later described, “ — too tame. I was terribly keen on being in the wildest places I could find — most untamed.”
He “cut himself off completely” — as Durrell later described.
Prospero’s Cell is Durrell’s record of the years they spent there, an idyllic period that was eventually brought to an end by World War II. The title of the book comes from a theory that Corfu was where the protagonist of William Shakespeare’s play The…