Joanna Hodgkin, AMATEURS IN EDEN (Virago, February 2012).

Lawrence and Nancy Durrell, circa 1935.

Joanna Hodgkin’s new biography of Nancy Durrell Hodgkin, Amateurs in Eden, is due out in early 2012, just in time for the Lawrence Durrell Centenary.

The title of this biography is taken from Lawrence Durrell’s 1939 poem, “The Prayer-Wheel”:

Cross the threshold of the circle
Turning in its mesmerism
On the fulcrum of the Breath:
Learn the lovely mannerism
Of a perfect art-in-death.
Think: two amateurs in Eden,
Spaces in the voiceless garden,
Ancestors whose haunted faces
Met upon the apple’s bruises,
Broke the lovely spell of pardon.

Joanna Hodgkin is Nancy Durrell Hodgkin’s daughter.

Ms. Hodgkin has graciously agreed to give a talk on her mother and the new biography at Goodenough College during Durrell 2012: The Lawrence Durrell Centenary in June 2012.

Read the Durrell 2012 interview with Joanna Hodgkin here.

Visit the Amateurs in Eden blogsite.

AMATEURS  IN  EDEN  by Joanna Hodgkin

Biography | Virago | February 2012 |  b/w photos

A biography of the wife of Lawrence Durrell, poet and novelist, and author of some of the greatest works of English literature of the mid 20th century, notably the Alexandria Quartet.

So many facts about Durrell’s life are well-known: his womanising, his bohemian lifestyle, his time in Corfu with his siblings, including his brother, Gerald Durrell, author of the classic  MY  FAMILY  AND  OTHER  ANIMALS.  Less well-known is the story of his first wife, Nancy, a remarkable character in her own right, with a life full of events one would hesitate to describe in a novel.  Arguably, the most remarkable thing about Nancy was her utterly unremarkable childhood: she grew up in suburban Lincolnshire, the only child of an impoverished dentist.  But she had a talent for art, and went to the Slade.  She met and married Durrell in 1935, and shortly afterwards, they set off for Corfu.  In 1937, they moved to Paris, and made friends with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin with whom they planned to form a new literary movement.

From 1932-42, the crucial years of Durrell’s development as an important writer, Nancy and Durrell were inseparable.  She is a constant presence in the literary histories of those times, but always as a shadowy, unknowable figure, beautiful and enigmatic.  Anaïs Nin said, ‘I think often of Nancy’s most eloquent silences.’  But Nancy did have a voice, a clear and compelling voice, and the chance finally to hear what she has to say sheds new light on extraordinary times and an extraordinary group of people.

Joanna Hodgkin is Nancy’s daughter by Nancy’s second husband.  As such, she has had unique access to her mother’s letters and diaries.  Hodgkin writes critically acclaimed crime fiction under a pseudonym.  2012 is the centenary of the birth of Lawrence Durrell.

Announcement courtesy of the Little, Brown Book Group’s 2011 London Book Fair brochure.

Take advantage of a special discounted offer from Virago Books.

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