Born in India in 1925, Durrell was relocated to Corfu in 1935. There is no better place in the world for a 10 year old boy to run wild. When I think of Gerald Durrell the first image that comes to me is something like the photo above, the young English boy growing up in Corfu with his menagerie of pets, the central character in his novel “My family and other animals”.
The second is “Fillets of Plaice” the collection of writings he published from random scribbles and writings. The name of the book is a nod of respect to his older brother, the “real” writer of the family, Lawrence. Lawrence Durrell published a book entitled “Spirit of Place” penned from scraps, discards from his novels and fragments of letters.
Fillets of Plaice contains two very memorable short stories, one about Pâté and the other a Ghost story set in a Library in a remote house.
Gerald is best known for changing the purpose of the Zoos of the world. It was he who recognised their role in conservation as opposed to entertainment. If we can reverse the destruction of habitats and re-populate them with native wild species it will only be because Gerald Durrell founded Jersey Zoo.
I can find no poetry by Gerald so you must settle for Lawrence. This one is replete with imagery from Corfu and beneath it all Charon of Greek Mythology.
This unimportant morning: by Lawrence Durrell
This unimportant morning
Something goes singing where
The capes turn over on their sides
And the warm Adriatic rides
Her blue and sun washing
At the edge of the world and its brilliant cliffs.
Day rings in the higher airs
Pure with cicadas, and slowing
Like a pulse to smoke from farms,
Extinguished in the exhausted earth,
Unclenching like a fist and going.
Trees fume, cool, pour – and overflowing
Unstretch the feathers of birds and shake
Carpets from windows, brush with dew
The up-and-doing: and young lovers now
Their little resurrections make.
And now lightly to kiss all whom sleep
Stitched up – and wake, my darling, wake.
The impatient Boatman has been waiting
Under the house, his long oars folded up
Like wings in waiting on the darkling lake.