Lawrence Durrell: Recent information

Amsterdam, 30 August 2017.

First of all I want to thank everyone who wrote a reaction to this site for their positive words. So very stimulating! Merci!

And so…               

ELENI ON TOUR WITH:

‘A LONELY TYPEWRITER HANGING ON THE WILLOWS!

At the time it was Larry’s great wish that after his departure I would arrange his house in Sommières in a Durrell museum, in which there would also be a place for his brother Gerald – and for myself to perform. Due to a very disagreeable intrusion that project did not go through and the house was sold soon after his passing away – totally against his wishes. I was untimately able to comply with his wish that I should write about him: ‘A Bite of Ice-cream’.  But recently I became aware that I could do more to add to his ‘immortality’ as a writer – as he yestingly used to say to me. During his Centenary Conference in London in 2012 I was also able to show a large number of slides of his house and garden. Furthermore I possess unique photo’s and other material concerning Larry. I have decided to turn my souvenirs into a kind of very small travelling museum on behalf of Larry. Besides a small exposition as well as the slide show I’ll recount in the course of a fictional conversation with him anecdotes from our shared history. In addition I’ll perform a number of my own songs, in which Larry figures as the central character. I hope that’ll turn out to be a nice way to add – even if it’s in a modest way –  to that ‘immortality’ he so wished for.

From the start of 2018 I’ll be able to stage this performance and I’ll keep you posted on this project via this website. And, of course, I can also perform abroad if I’m invited to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Now I can almost ‘hear’ Larry use some of his favourite expressions: ‘Why not!’, ‘Wonderful news’ and ‘Marvelous!’

Greetings to you all,

Eleni

As several nice people asked me in their e-mails for more information about Larry, voilà: Some pictures of Sommières and Larry’s house and garden.

Foto Le Glacier

Photo: Eleni Sevin

Accompanying this picture I took of Le Glacier on the quai of the ‘Vidourle river’, with the Roman bridge, the following: During my first visit to Larry, while sitting at his kitchen table, before a warming open fire redolent of thyme and pine trees, he immediately told me a lot about his own life. Quite surprising, and to tell the truth, never yet had I experienced a more fascinating introduction into somebody’s life! For hours he entertained me and I could indeed never have guessed that a person like Larry, whose work was so appreciated world wide, would act in such a friendly, open, humorous and broad-minded way, even during our first meeting… And while at the start, it seemed that he was carrying the world on his shoulders, quickly he revealed himself to be a compelling story-teller, his blue eyes sparkling more and more as he got into his stride. From time to time his whole body rose up from his chair to give more power to his words, which were also emphasized with arm gestures; yes, his whole body was talking to me. ‘A Bite of Ice-cream’ contains a large section of anecdotes.

Anyway, I took this picture of café Le Glacier because Larry told me that the American author, Henry Miller – as is well-known, a very dear friend of his – came to visit Larry in Sommières too. That was long after the two of them met in Paris. But at the time Henry came to Sommières the whole town, and even more people, had been standing on the Roman bridge to welcome Miller. But they all had thought that it was the other famous Miller who was going to set foot in Sommières. They were more than eager to see Arthur Miller arriving and above all, of course, his legendary wife, Marilyn Monroe… Great was the deception when it was Henry who appeared on the scene. But not for long, because he proved himself to be a not to be neglected ping-pong player at Le Glacier! Yes: Where Paris had of course been a winner to Henry, and Larry and he frequented café’s as Le Select, Le Dome, and ‘The American bar’ La Coupole – places which played a role in Henry’s Tropic of Cancer – it was at Le Glacier in Sommières that Henry proved time and again to be a winner himself during games of table tennis. But in connection with that Parisian episode of the two of them, I had arranged a talk with the eldest ‘garçon’ at La Coupole, years ago already, to try to get some information about Larry, Henry, Anaïs Nin and Alfred Perlès – who together enjoyed themselves beyond measure at the place. To obtain this information I’d written a letter to the ‘établisement’ and later it was on a drizzling Parisian afternoon that I sat together with my son sipping a very expensive glass of red wine in the ‘Limonade Bar’ near the window of La Coupole. I showed this old ‘garçon’ some pictures of Larry, while I saw other ‘garçons’ carrying huge étagères with oysters and lobsters on the spread fingers of one hand and with the other emptying almost at the same time bottles of sparkling champagne at the tables of the guests… The old man looked at me with a certain embarrassment and nodded his head. ‘No, so sorry…’ I could almost see him racking his brain and then, after a pause, he said: ‘Eugène Ionesco… Yes… he came here quite often! I do remember him very well…’ And then he added something like: ‘Ah, ma chèrie… I’m just a waiter, and to tell you the truth, we are not supposed to know too much about the clièntèle… You know, there are very rich people who come here, but also… very poor men and women and we are indeed absolutely not supposed to know anything about their private conditions of life…’ I nodded. Yes, of course I could understand that – even if I felt a little bit disappointed. After another moment of silence he quite lovingly looked at me again and said (while a huge frown had appeared between his eyebrows): ‘But now that I’m thinking about it a bit more… There… in the front row… Oui, oui, oui… there used to sit there a company of quite noisy people… Yes, definitely… Now that I look again at your pictures… Amongst them I’m sure it was him (Larry)… Yes… and the whole company was drinking bottles of champagne here and enjoying themselves enormously… Yes!!!’ And then, nodding in affirmation, he bowed and, softly smiling contentedly, the elderly man silently took his leave… Of course he must have been right! As Larry told me himself Henry, Anaïs, Alfred and he were inseparable, and even played checkers at the place. And for Perlès La Coupole was really of great importance. A well-known remark of Larry’s about Anaïs appeared to be something like: ‘And Anaïs? She sat at the bar, picking quarrels with her lovers and publishers. She adored men, but she had a penchant for men who wept and for psychiatrists, so ideally she fancied weeping psychiatrists…’ And how well I recognize Larry in those words! However from La Coupole, the champagne and the oysters in Paris, to Le Glacier with the ‘vin de pays’, pastis and ice-creams in Sommières, had been no problem at all. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Henry at the time I was at Larry’s place, as Henry was already an invalid chained to his wheelchair, but they were still often in touch through letters and phone calls. And Larry was very, very sad the day he received the news about Henry’s death in 1980. And in the buckets of mail Larry received almost dayly, he was often asked for information about Henry as well as Anaïs. Anyway, through the years I quite often had to take Larry’s suitcase from the cupboard in the bedroom and pack his good clothes in it – the ones he never wore in Sommières – because he was going for a few days to Paris and in particular also to La Coupole where he often was planning to talk (amongst other things) business too.

Escargot

Photo: Eleni Sevin

Parked in the garden, waiting patiently, the old bue VW camper, lovingly baptised by Larry as the ‘Escargot’ who travelled at its slow speed enormous distances, sometimes with the grey rubber boat ‘The Zodiac’ on its roof…

Soomières

Photo: Eleni Sevin

View on Sommières.

Foto dadalpalm

Photo: Eleni Sevin

Larry’s garden in which my bike often stood waiting calmly for me, leaning against this tall date palm.

Tuinhek

Photo: Eleni Sevin

The entrance gate on which I had rattled so hard on my first vitit to Larry and to which journalists referred in their interviews, because its creaking deepened the mystery surrounding Larry’s existence….

foto balkon+deur

Photo: Eleni Sevin

A balcony left from the front door of Maison Tartès.

Tuin met zwembad

Photo: Eleni Sevin

That wild, jungle of a garden in which the old, almost decadent (and anyway very complicated to maintain) swimming-pool was well hidden amongst the trees and bushes.

Brug Sommières

Photo: Eleni Sevin

The Roman bridge and the ‘Tour de l’horloge’.

stieren in Sommières

Photo: Eleni Sevin

During ‘La fête votive’ bulls are running around in Sommières…

Durrell 5 b

Photo: Eleni Sevin

Gerald Durrell talking with my little son in ‘Mas Michel’ during one of the parties. During such a party the Swedish movie actress, Mai Zetterling – among other roles, she played Helga, the grandmother, in ‘The Witches’ (1990) directed by Nicolas Roeg – sauntered round among the olive trees, which were worthy of a Van Gogh, a glass of wine in one hand and a much younger lover in the other.

Scan 7

Photo: Eleni Sevin

But also Ugnė Karvelis, who worked at the time as an editor for the French publishing house ‘Gallimard’ and who had been formerly the second wife of Julio Cortázar was – just like Mai – more than once one of the guests at the parties of Gerry and Lee. On this photo I’d taken of Larry and her, Larry looked quite vulnerable; so much so that a shudder had passed through me when I took the print out of the folder in the photographic shop… A reason the more for me to try to cheer him up.

Scan 6

Photo: Eleni Sevin

The castle ruin of Sommières. Larry used to say: ‘We’re all right here, because nothing ever happens in Sommières…’ but he surely forgot at such a moment the grazy so-called ’Vidourlades’, when the wild, meandering Vidourle river flooded the whole town, the forest fires, and the actual murder that was committed near the castle ruin one evening in 1980, during a village party…

Pagnol

Photo: Yves Mouret

And of course, not to be forgotten that same Sommières was the scene of intense commotion again when it was decided to do some filming there for the remake of two famous films: ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’, based on the books of Marcel Pagnol. This took place in 1985 under the direction of Claude Berri. The whole town was besides itself with excitement because such actors as Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Dépardieu and Emmanuelle Béart were to be looked over and seen in action. My little son and me were asked as extras and during the sweltering ‘canicule’ of those shooting days Daniel Auteuil time and again disappeared briefly and then returned with a soft drink or a piece of fruit for my child, who was by far the youngest on the set. Montand as ‘Le Papet’ was charming too, but it was Larry who afterwards served a very tasty, chilled white wine of a good year…

Ludo

Photo: Eleni Sevin

Ludo Chardenon – ‘The Plant Magic Man’ as Larry called this dear friend of his, with his stall at the entrance gate of Sommières full of numbered sachets with many different mixtures of medicinal herbs, as well as herbes de provence for kitchen use – all picked in the region.

 

 

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