Kaczvinsky’s book commemorates 50th anniversary of renowned author’s publication
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The dean of Louisiana Tech’s College of Liberal Arts recently had his book, “Durrell and the City: Collected Essays on Place,” published.
Dr. Donald Kaczvinsky’s book, published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lawrence Durrell’s four novels comprising The Alexandria Quartet (1957-60) and contains 14 essays written by international scholars and critics.
Kaczvinsky said the essays were selected from those presented at a conference last year in New Orleans that commemorated the 50th anniversary of The Alexandria Quartet.
“In some ways, this book is the culmination of my scholarly career,” said Kaczvinsky, who is also the George E. Pankey Eminent Scholar in English. “I’ve written and taught on Lawrence Durrell for 25 years, starting with my dissertation. My first book, ‘The Kingdom of the Imagination,’ took a thematic approach to Durrell’s novels. This book provides a reassessment of Durrell’s achievement by bringing together essays by a group of international scholars.”
The essays, he added, consider Durrell’s various cityscapes but focus mainly on his depiction of Alexandria, Egypt, during the 1930s.
“Of course, I couldn’t have predicted this, but writing about Alexandria, Egypt, during the Arab Spring was also fascinating and timely, giving me a perspective on that country’s history from the early decades of the 20th century to today,” Kaczvinsky said.
Kaczvinsky said the book will also be part of the celebrations surrounding Durrell’s centenary conference taking place in London this summer. There will be exhibitions at the British Library and other venues in the city.
The collection provides a critical look at Durrell’s urban landscapes, from the London or his early novels to Avignon during World War II in his last novel series. “Durrell and the City” also focuses on the place that made the author famous – the city of Alexandria – to provide a reassessment of Durrell’s career and achievement.
Kaczvinsky edited the collection of essays and wrote the introduction and a chapter for the book. His chapter, “’Where the Blue Algonquin Flows’: Durrell, New York, and the American ‘Spirit of Place,’” interprets Durrell’s poem “Owed to America” in the context of American pop culture and the entertainment industry during the ‘60s.
“This was one of the only articles I’ve ever written about America or literary perspectives of America — and it was very personal for me,” Kaczvinsky said. “I met Durrell in 1986 on one of his trips to the States. And the United States is one of the only places in the world Durrell did not stay for any length of time. Yet he liked America, and the poem, originally titled ‘Ode to America,’ was one of his only literary comments that considered America.
“Durrell’s relationship to America has never really been considered by critics, and the poem presented ideas about place that were characteristic of his thinking,” Kaczvinsky said. “I used environmental and cultural criticism to come to terms with the lyric. I compare the poem to the famous patriotic lyric ‘America the Beautiful’ while tying in Durrell’s ideas about the U.S. with what was happening in America in April 1968, which was when he first visited our country.”
1968, he added, was an eventful year in the United States, as the country was in turmoil over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, student protests over the Vietnam War and other political issues.