Just read Durrell’s enchanting Marine Venus, as beautifully written as his other Greek isle stay, Prospero’s Cell. This one takes in a great draught of Aegean light and brightness in Rhodes. Durrell was sent there as part of the post-war army administration which ran the island from 1945-47, when it was handed back to its owners.
As well as lyrical descriptions of the landscape and its people, he introduces the friends he made there, many of whom are wonderfully eccentric and in one way or another, bloody-minded. Here the British Consul, Hoyle, resists pressure by the island’s chief medic to get his hernia sorted out. His responses made me laugh, though in the end he opted for the operation rather than the tray.
Hoyle is suffering from hernia, and Mills proposes to perform a minor operation on him when the weather gets colder. ‘I shall have to poke a hole in your middle and let some of the sawdust out, Hoyle,’ he says. Hoyle hates the idea. ‘Can’t I die in peace?’ he says testily. ‘What would happen if you didn’t operate?’ Mills sighs and swallows his wine. ‘You would soon be going about with that tummy of yours on a tray. How would you like to hold up a tray all day?’ ‘I should have a servant to hold the tray,’ says Hoyle with dignity.
Source: Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (London: Faber & Faber, 1960), p. 104
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