From the archive
INTERVIEWER Can you summarize what’s wrong with the way we’re living in [England]?
DURRELL The things one notices immediately are petty—it’s the construction of a sort of giant pin-table of inhibitions and restrictive legislation and ignoble, silly defenses against feeling, really. That’s what it amounts to. Of course there may be other mitigating factors which one leaves out when one is talking jolly glibly. If you put a writer in the pontiff’s seat, God knows what you might expect out of his mouth—you know, there may be economic conditions. It may be just that England is too overcrowded to be able to live in a joyous—
INTERVIEWER Mediterranean way?
DURRELL No, not necessarily Mediterranean. One of the writers I reread every two or three years is Surtees, and I very much hoped that England was going to be Surtees’ England—a vulgar, jolly, roistering England, not especially aesthetic or cultivated or delicate in any sense, but something with its vulgar roots in food, sex, and good living. By which I don’t mean fine living or refinement of values, because those are just the top dressing. It is at the roots that something’s wrong.