Listening time: under 4 minutes.

A marvelous account of a butcher bursting in to Lawrence Durrell’s office during the short period after the war when the Brits managed Rhodes.  At one point the temporary administration decided to issue a new proclamation on censorship.  This led Manoli the butcher to challenge their democratic credentials as well as seeking official approval for his epic poem, which he then proceeded to declaim.  Durrell captures the comedy, splendour and pathos of the recital. 

Later on, a little boy comes up to Durrell in the street and hands him a parcel.  A thank you from the epic butcher:

‘Inside the parcel were some lamb-chops, a true poet’s gift.’ 

Source: Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (London: Faber & Faber, 1960), pp. 148-49 and p. 150

Photo credit: MorningbirdPhoto at pixabay

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Quotation: Lawrence Durrell - Reflections on a Marine Venus

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Today my door flew open and standing before me was a large cadaverous individual with corn-cob teeth and curling moustaches, clad in a blood-stained smock.  He turned out to be a butcher-poet from one of the outlying villages. 

‘Is it true,’ he said with a ghastly grimace, and in a tone of such hollowness and resonance that I recognised at once the village speech-maker.  ‘Is it true that the democratic Anglo-Saxons impose censorship on works of art?’  I admitted that it was true.  He sighed and cast his eyes to the ceiling.  ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘what a disappointment after seeing the Italians run like hares.’ 

He produced from under his smock a wad of the ruled scrap paper that tradesmen use for their business jottings and held it out to me, saying simply, ‘I am Manoli the butcher, and this is my epic.’ …

‘Read me a little of it,’ I said.  His eye brightened and drawing himself up he launched into his epic without a trace of embarrassment.  It was comical, but it was also impressive, his utter self-possession.  The poem itself was a portentous piece of doggerel, written in thumping sixteen-foot lines, and entitled, ‘The Miseries and Trials of Rhodes under the plague of the Fascists’ … As he came to the end of each page he allowed it to drop to the floor with a superb gesture, so that at last he stood before us empty-handed with his epic littering the floor around his feet. 


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