Lawrence Durrell: Sebastian or Ruling Passions


The latest addition to my website is Lawrence Durrell‘s Sebastian or Ruling Passions, the fourth in his Avignon Quintet. This is definitely the weakest (and shortest) one so far and it rather seems as if Durrell is just filling in gaps and cruising. There are two main plot lines. The first concerns Mnemidis, a patient in the asylum under Constance’s care who her boss, Schwarz, thinks should be handed over to the civil authorities, because of his violence. Constance believes that she can help cure him and is not worried about any danger, as the guard, Pierre, is a giant of man and very strong. Inevitably, Mnemidis escapes. The second plot line concerns Affad, who, we learned, at the end of the previous book, is called Sebastian. By having an affair with Constance, as he did in the previous book, he has betrayed the mysterious gnostic sect to which he and the Prince belong and he must face a trial. At the trial – a typical Durrell set-piece with a dark chamber, mysterious figures and with the trial held, of course, at midnight – he learns that he has been sent a letter telling him to expect his imminent death. This is not connected with his affair but something that can happen to any member of the sect and is a great honour. The letter has obviously got mislaid while he was travelling to Egypt and, in fact, Constance has got it but Mnemidis has found it and thinks it refers to him. But it is all rather tiresome and lacks the panache of the earlier books, even if Aubrey Blanford and his creation, Rob Sutcliffe resume their bizarre relationship and other characters from earlier books make a brief appearance.

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