Lawrence Durrell: Biography, Books & Poems

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Who was the man behind the highly acclaimed series, ''The Alexandria Quartet?'' In this lesson, you will learn about the early life, career, and major works of the famous British novelist and poet, Lawrence Durrell.

Early Life

Lawrence Durrell was born on February 27, 1912 in India. Durrell's parents were of British and Irish descent, but Durrell always considered Indian culture to be a part of him. At the age of 11, his parents shipped him from his childhood home back to their native England. This did not sit well with Durrell. Compared to the lush and vibrant India, England was drab and repressive. Lawrence hated the confines of English education. His school and its rules became his own personal prison. Durrell was very bright but gave up trying on his tests and exams. Despite Durrell's horrible relationship with formal education, he knew that he was destined to be a writer.

Early Career

After Lawrence Durrell finished school, he began focusing on his writing career. He published his first book, Pied Pipers of Love in 1935. The book wasn't a success, but he forged ahead with his second novel, Panic Spring, anyways. This time, however, he published the book under a nom de plume, or pen name, so that no one would know that he was the original author. Perhaps he was concerned that the second book would be unsuccessful like the first!

The same year that Durrell published Pied Pipers of Love, he experienced two life-changing events. First, he convinced his family to move from England to the warm and welcoming country of Greece. Although it was not his beloved India, Greece was a close second and had a profound impact on Durrell's writing. Second, Durrell began a decades-long correspondence with famous author Henry Miller. Miller is best known for his book, Tropic of Cancer. Durrell was a huge fan of Miller and sent him a letter telling him how much he loved the book. Miller responded, and the two became pen pals.

In 1941, Durrell's fabulous life in Greece came to a screeching halt. Europe was in the midst of World War II, and Nazis were quickly approaching. Durrell and his first wife, Nancy Meyers, escaped from Greece with their daughter and moved to Cairo, Egypt. The couple separated one year later, and Durrell made his way to Alexandria, Egypt. There he worked as press attaché, or the person responsible for dealing with the press, for the British Information Office. Durrell did not love Alexandria, but that didn't stop him from absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. There, he met his second wife. Both the city and his new love became the inspiration for his most highly acclaimed series, The Alexandria Quartet.

Later Career

By 1945, Durrell was ready to leave Egypt and found himself back in Greece as a director of public relations. Over the next decade, Durrell moved from Greece to Argentina, from Argentina to Yugoslavia, and eventually from Yugoslavia back to Greece. By the time Lawrence Durrell returned to Greece, he was finished working for the British government. He resolved himself to teach English in Cyprus and continue writing. Civil war in Cyprus made these two goals difficult, and he was ultimately forced to leave the country. Durrell's book, Bitter Lemons, published in 1957, explains the turbulence of the war in Cyprus. He spent the remainder of his years penning novels and poetry before dying in 1990.

Books and Poetry

Lawrence Durrell is best remembered for his series The Alexandria Quartet made up of four books:

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