Tuesday 15 May 2012
Even after weeks of rain in Kent, when the clouds clear the colours of an English May are eye-catching distractions everywhere you look. It will soon be as hard to write here as it is in Provence.
“I think England is the very place for a fluent and fiery writer. The highest hymns of the sun are written in the dark. I like the grey country. A bucket of Greek sun would drown in one colour the crowds of colours I like trying to mix for myself out a grey flat insular mud. If I went to the sun I’d just sit in the sun; that would be very pleasant but I’m not doing it, and the only necessary things I do are the things I am doing. Unless by accidents, and my life is planned by them, I shall be nearer Bournemouth than Corfu this summer.”
So wrote Dylan Thomas to his literary acquaintance Lawrence Durrell in December 1938. I’m a great admirer of both men’s work but have to confess that I take heart from the Welshman on this: I much prefer to write in the dark drear of British grey than the vibrant light of the south.
Thomas on his Carmarthenshire waterfront; Durrell in the searing blues and golds of the Greek island of Corfu: both connected through a mutual admiration of what the other achieved, one in the dark, one in sunlight. It’s fascinating to see, as the letter goes on, how well Thomas understands the effort and the personal turmoil of Durrell as he hammers out his words, striving so hard to be taken seriously, and how generous his encouragement:
"I liked your Stygian prose very very much, it’s the best I’ve read for years. Don’t let the Greek sun blur your pages as you said it did. You use words like stones, throwing, rockerying, mossing, churning, sharpening, bloodsucking, melting, and a hard firewater flows and rolls through them all the time…"