On the movements of the collective unconscious

Robert Musil was one of the great masters of imaginative metaphor, and he captured very well the notion that much of what drives our psychology is both collective and unconscious — difficult to be aware of from the point of view of individual consciousness: The train of time is a train which rolls out its own tracks ahead of itself. The flow of time is a river which carries its own banks along...

The mirror and the windows

There is in human experience a perennial contrast between the external world and the inner world, the interior. With both worlds, we interact; and to some small extent we can influence and control them. But mostly, they’re wide-open ranges of the unknown: abundant, overpowering, and utterly “other” than ourselves.

The hypocritical mirror-critic

Returning from his year-long stay on a Greek island, the protagonist of The Magus makes an intermediate stop in Rome. But he compares his impressions unfavorably with those he had in that other Mediterranean world: The sun shone as certainly, the people were far more elegant, the architecture and the art much richer, but it was as if the Italians, like their Roman ancestors, wore a great mask of...

Alexandria, spacetime, and the nature of mystery

The architecture of Durrell’s "Alexandria" tetralogy is constructed in analogy to the idea of four-dimensional spacetime in the theory of relativity. Durrell calls this “the relativity proposition”. How does this work in terms of plot layout?

Death: walking into the mirror

There is a rather special use of mirror imagery in Justine, when Durrell’s narrator reflects on his last conversation with the writer Pursewarden (which had taken place immediately before the latter committed suicide). The fact that this was our last meeting has invested it, in retrospect, with a significance which surely it cannot have possessed. Nor, for the purposes of this writing, has he...

Meeting in the mirror

We have already seen two roles that mirrors play in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet: they indicate a certain self-awareness (a ‘reflectiveness’, we might say with a somewhat tired pun) in a character, and they expose a distance, even separation between their inner worlds when they interact. In other words, Durrell has his characters perceive things in mirrors (or ‘as’ in mirrors) when he wants to...

Things that happen in the mirror

‘Mirror’ is one of Durrell’s words; mirrors are one of his images: they appear throughout the Alexandria tetralogy, in various functions. 1. When the narrator’s relationship with Melissa starts, her previous lover is jealous (to the point of following him around with a pistol in his coat). The two men fall into a pattern of staring and ignoring each other when they meet. But then something...

Mirrors: metaphors of self-awareness

When reading a book that uses poetic language, we might stumble from time to time over a sentence: though inconspicuous at first, still something about the metaphor seems not quite right. And closer inspection can then reveal a surprisingly deep idea behind a simple choice of phrase.

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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