Through the Dark Labyrinth by Gordon Bowker
When Durrell came into the room it was as though someone had uncorked a bottle of vintage champagne,’ said a friend.
But there was a dark cruel side to the bubbling Durrell and this brilliantly creative writer’s life was indeed labyrinthine.
Born in India, schooled under Mount Everest, where Tibetan lamas trekked to and fro, he lived thereafter in a Tibet of the mind. Expelled from this paradise to school in gloomy England (his ‘Pudding Island’), he fled into exile, spending his most productive years in Greece and around the Mediterranean.
In wartime Egypt he conceived ‘The Alexandria Quartet’, which brought fame with its ‘exploration of modern love’ and experimental form. His great last novel cycle, ‘The Avignon Quintet’, has intrigued readers ever since with its formal complexity and compelling mystery.
Married four times, he lost two daughters (through separation and suicide) and his most blissful marriage ended in his wife’s sudden death. Wine and sun inspired him; sex and madness obsessed him as sources of creativity. These things mark his work, showing a dark side to the effervescent wit evident in his writing.
Posthumous charges of incest cast a shadow over his memory, but nothing can detract from the scope and brilliance of his achievement.
Gordon Bowker was born in Birmingham, where he attended King Edward’s Grammar School, Camp Hill. He went on to study at university in both Nottingham and London before teaching sociology at Goldsmith’s College, London, from 1966 to 1991. He spent six years teaching courses in biography, and also worked as a reviewer and critic for several newspapers. His works include ‘Pursued by Furies: A Biography of Malcolm Lowry’, as well as biographies of George Orwell and James Joyce.