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Balthazar is the second volume in Lawrence Durrell’s “The Alexandria Quartet”. (The exclamation mark is mine).

When I first read Durrell’s quartet a long time ago, I remember Balthazar being the most intriguing of all. The reading of it left me with a feeling of sensuous delight in the language so astutely manipulated and managed … for language as a written experience is one of the greatest and in my estimation, the most acclaimed achievements of the arts of humanity … and while painting as art is devilishly skilled, it is still a copy of many natural surroundings, likewise music is imitation of nature’s beasts and birds … wind and storm and song the cry of an estranged soul familiar in tone and pitch to a rising tumult of mild zephyr to wild wind.

But to take an alphabet of uniquely constructed letters that are assembled into accepted words and then to arrange those unfamiliar nouns, adjectives and verbs into sentences of not just legible script, but to frame them in descriptive design that can capture the sound and imagination of a reader to direct them down a road toward adventure, horror, love and desire demonstrates the dexterity of pure mental discipline to build, word by word, paragraph by paragraph that mood picture that we would wish to describe.

I have written many articles and stories … some of which have appeared on this site. Loving the fluidity of the written word, I find delight in just the sounds made in the pronunciation of those words … I always have from a long, long time ago. Some names of places have caught and held my awe in the wonder of place names:


Where is Samarkand?
Is it cry of bird strangely,
Or is it man?
And Byzantium?
A pealing of great bells, where
The name; Pliny, is but a tinkle.
And Jerusalem, Jerusalem … syrup,
As sticky as a bruised sugar fig.
Dar-Es-Salaam … a command?
If so, then consider its neighbour;
Like the last whispered word
From an unsettling dream …
… Zanzibar! …

So it came as a surprise to me a week or so ago when a young refugee, Samad Abdul, posted his story on this site where he opened with this sentence; “That’s such a moment of blessing when you are with your best friend but that’s such a horrible moment when friends get separated forever.”

And which brought a cavalcade of accusation and degradation upon the spirit of his plea and the generic hopes of so many desperate peoples wanting a feeling of that “moment of blessing”. The disgrace that was inflicted upon that young man’s story through nothing more that I can see than a envy of his desire for a dreamt of future whereas those who would deny him are trapped in a mire of mediocrity and drudgery unforgiving but materially secure … no longer do they seek, having become satisfied with such mediocrity, they are quick to condemn those who still hunger for life’s promises.

In the novel ‘Balthazar,’ the search for truth demands confronting some rather unsavoury imagery and realities..this demands an unflinching courage to stare at and stare down such in the face of sometimes social adversary. As the paragraph below says, from the Marquis de Sade’s story of Justine:

“Yes, we insist upon these details, you veil them with a decency which removes all their edge of horror; there remains only what is useful to whoever wishes to become familiar with man; Inhabited by absurd fears, they only discuss the puerilities with which every fool is familiar and dare not, by turning a bold hand to the human heart, offer its gigantic idiosyncrasies to our view.”

Backing up the young refugee’s article, I posted a story of another refugee from another time just last week; “Saying Goodbye to Ferrucchio”. It also was in reality a love story … a love story between the travails and sorrows of humanity that can come together in adversity and tragedy. We love as humans, we embrace as lovers, it is the continuity of life itself that neither work, duty or politics can stop. So it was a kind of weird moment when I read of many twitterers demanding of the “Barnaby Affair” that we please make it so that; “It is about the rorting, not the rooting!” … weird … as if such salacious dollops of metaphorical body-fluids could be overlooked for the everyday garden variety of possible rorting behaviour.

And it was this hypocrisy where the story of the young refugee was met with accusations of misleading, deceit, possible lying and being requested to “prove” his legitimacy of persecution … and yet, in the Barnaby Affair, we get the demand that we not ask about his private behaviour or life and do not inquire or require him to explain his tangled relationships. ”Leave his private life out of this!” we are admonished … yet demand the most intricate details of the life of a refugee, any refugee from the time of their first fears of danger to how, what, when, where and why they fled their homeland … and not any subsequent explanation by myself or others who had witnessed or experienced such fears could or would be accepted by these criothans of the self-elected “truth police” who in the face of so much detailed explanation stubbornly refused to shift ground.

‘Truth is what most contradicts itself in time,’ said Lawrence Durrell. I would add that “the telling of a truth gives strength and power to an argument, whereas a lie weakens the most legitimate claim”.

I’ll leave these last words in their sensual beauty to Mr Durrell:

“Profligacy and sentimentality … killing love by taking things easy … sleeping out a chagrin … This was Alexandria, the unconsciously poetical mother-city exemplified in the names and faces which made up her history.”

“Any concentration of the will displaces life and gives it bias in motion. Reality, he believed, was always trying to copy the imagination of man, from which it derived.”

But it is the blind, merciless cruelty that I find most offensive and disgusting, particularly from such whose greatest woe in life would be in equivalence to that which is lost by the refugee to the suffering of a mild toothache!


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  1. Joseph Carli

    In continuing the conversation, the question hanging on the lips of so many “identity politics” fence sitters would have to be :

    Accepting Barnaby’s explanation that he was a “refugee” from a failed marriage and so sought “safe harbour” in the welcoming arms of another, do we ; the constituents who suffer from any policy decisions he and his political party delivers, have the right to seek personal, detailed explanations of time, place and financial circumstances of his new found relationship that would seek to profit from the financial security we: The People offer ?

    So likewise, if the deputy Prime Minister is to be given safe passage by “Parliamentary Privilege” and even the “soft-left” to abstain from such explanations, what right, practical, moral and ethical, do we have to demand personal, detailed explanations of time, place and financial circumstances of refugees who also seek “safe harbour” in a new found life?

    For surely, “rule of law” governance would require equal consideration for both citizen and guest in our nation as in our home.

  2. helvityni

    “And it was this hypocrisy where the story of the young refugee was met with accusations of misleading, deceit, possible lying and being requested to “prove” his legitimacy of persecution … and yet, in the Barnaby Affair, we get the demand that we not ask about his private behaviour or life and do not inquire or require him to explain his tangled relationships. ”Leave his private life out of this!” we are admonished … yet demand the most intricate details of the life of a refugee, any refugee from the time of their first fears of danger to how, what, when, where and why they fled their homeland … and not any subsequent explanation by myself or others who had witnessed or experienced such fears could or would be accepted by these criothans of the self-elected “truth police” who in the face of so much detailed explanation stubbornly refused to shift ground.”

    I struggled with this very same attitude of some people posting here; maybe writing under pseudo makes it easier to show your total lack of empathy and compassion without embarrassment…

    Our politicians handling the immigration and refugees have no sympathy for you, if your only friend, your Diary, is taken away, why would they, they don’t mind separating families…

  3. Joseph Carli

    Yes, helvityni…and it could be claimed in equal consideration that “escaping from” a failed relationship, particularly in the spate of domestic violence killings, could equate to escaping from a failed State…perhaps, like the beaten spouse, they should have stayed..?

  4. Roswell

    Cleverly written, Joe.

  5. Joseph Carli

    ” Cleverly written, Joe.” …a curious appraisal, Rosswell…It would imply a touch of subversive intrigue…I would love to be thought of as a secret agent… 🙂

  6. Joseph Carli

    Machiavelli …:

    ” … And this conclusion can be drawn, that where the people is not corrupted, tumults and other troubles do no harm; but where corruption exists, well ordered laws are of no benefit, unless they are administered by one who, with extreme strength, will make them be observed until the people become good [cured]; I do not know if this ever happened, or whether it be possible that it could happen; for it is seen (as I have said a little above) that a City coming to decadence because of the corruption of its people, if it ever happens that she is raised up again, it happens through the virtu of one man who is then living, and not by the virtu of the general public, that the good institutions are sustained: and as soon as such a one is dead, they will return to their pristine habits, as happened at Thebes, which by the virtu of Epaminondas, while he was alive, was able to maintain the form of a Republic and Empire, but after his death returned to its first disorders: the reason is this, that one man cannot live so long that the time will be enough to bring a City back to good habits which for a long time has had evil habits. And if one of very long life or two continuous successors of virtu do not restore it [the state], so one which lacks them (as was said above) is quickly ruined, unless it should be made to be restored through many dangers and much bloodshed. For such corruption and little inclination for a free society result from an inequality that exists in that City; and wanting to bring them to equality, it is necessary to use the most extraordinary means, which few know or want to use, as will be described in more detail in another place.

    Can Chairman Mao be mentioned?

  7. corvus boreus

    Papa Joe,
    I hear you; the democratic system has totally failed us, our society is totally corrupted and there is no point in trying to fix it..
    Having previously wasted my time voting for the only political party advocating a humanitarian approach to boat-refugees, I now realize that only a violent revolution with the aim of installing a Machiavellian/Maoist dictatorship will alter things for the better.
    I await your explicit instructions on how to best proceed with the necessary ‘extreme strength / extraordinary means’ purge.

  8. helvityni

    Corvus Boreus, thank for the link in your earlier post, looks like there are many mini Duttons amongst us….

    The Victorian award winning Police man ( don’t remember his rank), did exactly what I indicated in my earlier post, he let his inner racist out on the social media….using a pseudonym…

  9. corvus boreus

    helvityni (5:59),
    Being not that big on ‘social media’, I confess to not having a clue as to what you are talking about.
    Please enlighten.

  10. Joseph Carli

    corvus boreus…as a satirist, you’d make a damn good “greasy spoon” cafe chef.

    What we; the people have to take into consideration is that “humanity” begins and is sustained within oneself personally. When we step outside the ‘larger picture” of the human condition ie: the universal suffering of so many ethnic groups of peoples, to satisfy or protect our own selfish piece of Earth, we become prisoners within that little piece of Earth..as we here in Oz are now “prisoners” of our own cultural construct..neither sympathetic nor welcoming of those in need…Our reputation as a “fair go” nation is already shot to pieces..we are now hated by so many of our neighbours that we have to seek, like a bully’s pimp, security from the world’s mightiest bully.

    We have descended from a proud nation to a grovelling nation…and nothing I can say or do will change the minds of any others..and I can only deliver the message..like all the other posters here on this blog…BUT..I myself will not be part of any coward’s castle and will hold to myself and be responsible to myself for my own little bit of humanity.

    You will also do as you will..

  11. corvus boreus

    None of which explains why you, seemingly so ardently in support of the cause of those seeking ‘refuge of asylum’, so routinely and vociferously despise/deride the Greens (lLet Samad go’), yet often choose to support the ALP (‘let Samad rot’).

  12. Joseph Carli

    corvus..I don’t “despise the Greens” as a matter of record, I have stated here that I have voted for SHY in the senate to give balance when Labor had the balance of power and I didn’t like Labor’s policy toward refugees. However, since that time, The Greens have continually played their hand in an opportunist manner not always to the benefit of the left-wing, but rather to scalp wavering Labor voters to their side.

    While I do support Labor in elections, I ..like many other Labor voters are fully aware of their shortcomings and I am not shy to let them know both with blog posting and personal tweets to the relevant pollies. And further, being of the persuasion that it is only “realpolitik” that can get policy across the line in this country, I find it pointless to vote for a lower-house minority party that can promise the world but in reality deliver zilch…except, it seems, when they vote to support perfidious policies of the LNP.

  13. corvus boreus

    So, that leaves us at something of a conundrum.
    You, entirely supportive of Samad’s claim for asylum, will probably vote for a party that supports his continued incarceration.
    I, though wanting further evidence of his claims for legitimate refugee status, am still likely to cast some form of federal vote for the party that supports his immediate integration into Australian society.
    Funny old life, ay?

  14. Joseph Carli

    ” Funny old life, ay?”….eee..yep!

  15. Joseph Carli

    Now, corvus boreus ….it is my turn to ask you..: When you say this : ” I, though wanting further evidence of his claims for legitimate refugee status . . .” I have to ask if you have read my reasons I put forward that I hope explained my reasons why the refugee’s claims were “legitimate” when put alongside the negating of demanding Barnaby Joyce answer questions about HIS refugee status from his “failed marriage”..Well, did you?

    Because I cannot see the conundrum..The article above would explain it all, surely?

  16. helvityni

    Corvus Boreus, the case of that racist high-rankin Victorian police chief was in the news today, it was also part of the discussion on the Drum.

    Labor is not any more compassionate than the Coalition when it comes to asylum seekers, hubby left the Labor party because of that and joined the Greens. I’m not happy with them either, but they are still better than the Coalition. I don’t belong to any party, but I hope that Labor and the Greens would be friends.. and allies….

  17. corvus boreus

    Rooting outside marriage isn’t covered under our current legal system (except for things like the impropriety of using parliamentary powers to create special positions to accommodate an inconveniently pregnant ‘side-bitty’), where-as ‘unauthorized maritime arrivals’ are required to demonstrate specific reasons for the granting of refuge of asylum.
    I have a number of questions (ranging from denial of climate change, the private piracy of public water through to his justification of the murder of a public official [Glen Turner]) that I would like to see put to the back-bench member for New England should he ever be put in the position that he was forced to answer, especially under oath before a federal anti-corruption investigation.

  18. Joseph Carli

    “Rooting outside marriage” as you put it, corvus, may not be a legal consideration for a high-positioned politician, but it is a high risk for “leverage” via political blackmail for someone to gain from the withholding of such knowledge…particularly when it is the leader of the National coalition partner and the deputy PM..as we saw from how the MSM “obliged” the LNP by witholding such information before the New England election…and we have to wonder just WHAT was gained by certain elements of that same MSM in the lack or reporting…and you have to wonder why the KGB and many other duplicitous agencies have used for many years the ubiquitous “honey-trap” to secure a hold over politicians and other power people…(see: The Profumo Affair as an introduction)..I recall a NSW member of Parliament being “exposed” just by a pic of him exiting a gay bar that resulted in his resigning. What more do you want…the 8×10 glossys?

    “Unauthorised maritime arrivals” give their reasons for seeking asylum to the appropriate authorities and I would think YOU personally have no grounds or authority IN ANY CAPACITY WHATSOEVER to seek more details…This is also covered in my above article..did you read that and just not bother thinking on the possibilities?

  19. corvus boreus

    Joseph Carli,
    In addition to my voided right to know the details of the circumstances by which Samad Abdul felt forced to flee Pakistan, I also have no personal grounds or authority to accept or sympathize with any unsubstantiated allegations of him subsequently suffering any forms of torture, including diary theft.
    I guess I’ll just have to satisfy my social conscience by voting for the only political party currently seeking his release.

  20. Joseph Carli

    corvus boreus…You must indeed be a person of greater consideration than yours truly to feel that you are in a position..even in your own estimation..to be considering that some sort of “deal” could be managed between yourself and “other parties” to gain a favourable decision from yourself…but, you see, corvus…it is not, was not, nor will ever be (discounting your possible rise to be in an authorised position to ask) about your sensitivities.

    There are so many other persons involved in that young man’s life, dreams and hopes..: Family, friends, loved ones..perhaps even children left behind..

    It is why I wrote the above post in the way it is..as an appeal to the more “poetic sensitivities” of the doubtful..It would appear I have again failed..

  21. corvus boreus

    For what it’s worth, Samad has my sympathies (and appropriate outraged vote) regarding the conditions to which he has been subjected (regardless of the validity of his initial asylum claim).
    Apparently, that puts me in step with about 10-15% of the Australian population.

  22. Joseph Carli

    I am concerned there are some who post on this site that, while claiming a “left-wing” preference, post comments more in line with the agenda of economic rationalism…in that they exhibit managerial qualities that demand non-proveable “meritocracy”, and apply a “rewards for winners” system to even those seeking refugee asylum that has taken on all the cult-like symptoms of a religion, where no amount of empirical evidence or proof of suffering will sway their pre-conceived notions.

    The Left is becoming soft…in that there are those who while wishing to “fight the good fight” are so afraid of looking into the dark side of society and of confronting that “dirty business” and so avoiding all “that unpleasantness” that in the end , their “fight against the Right” becomes little more than an exercise in mock swearing and bitch-slapping!

    I believe it is in Seutonius’s Twelve Caesars, where Julius Caesar, in the first civil war against Pompey’s troops, that he instructs his battle-seasoned legionnaires to strike at the faces of the Senate’s soldiers as they are all “pretty boys” more concerned with their image and good looks… So it seems it is with some “left-wingers” that they are more concerned with their “image” and perceived “good opinions” than with pushing with intensity some more distasteful truths.

    If the Left is to confront the Rabid Right, we are going to need more than metaphorical cosmetic make-up and good manners, because when push comes to shove, it is going to be one hell of a “bare-knuckle” verbal scrap!

  23. jimhaz

    So Foreman Joe, in addition to these current people, how many refugees should we be taking?

    Also if we took these in and it resulted in smugglers starting up operations again, what would you do?

    [I also have no personal grounds or authority to accept or sympathize with any unsubstantiated allegations of him subsequently suffering any forms of torture, including diary theft]

    As far as I can tell, these things would not have occurred if he was not amongst the large group who refused to move to the newly built centre. Part of the ‘torture’ seems to be that the existing centre is no longer supported.

    Whether they do actually have just cause to fear the new centre might be attacked by locals or it is a gambit play is not determined.

  24. Joseph Carli

    ” As far as I can tell, . . . ”

    ” Well, I’m a police officer and not a doctor, Your Honour..but as far as I can tell, those bruises and cuts on her face and upper body could just as easy been inflicted by her regular bumping into the ironing board or cupboard as she went about her housework…”

  25. Roswell

    jimhaz, you seem more concerned about people smugglers starting up than you do about the refugee crisis.


  26. Joseph Carli

    jimhaz et al : ” How am I to tell you, when you will not hear..How am I to show you, when you will not see and how am I to expect you to feel, when you have lost your soul ?”…..Simone de Beauvoir..

  27. helvityni

    Ms Julie told the Hungarian hard man that we stopped the drownings in Oz, she did not say anything about how we treated/ rewarded the ones who did not drown, we put the in camps… for life

  28. Wam

    Truth is as you believe.

    Surely it is easy for a bishop to lie by believing in a truth, Helvityni?

    The septic films intone the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Perhaps to seek it is an exercise in lies?

    There is no fight in the left, di’s boys are smarmy and billy is a ‘hope’ and ‘osmosis’ is his way.and most of labor’s lovely men of the last 70 years.

    ps The crow is a confident bird and is optimistic about his position in this question?

  29. corvus boreus

    Confidence and optimism?

    I am quite confident that Samad Abdul will remain under incarceration for a perceived political advantage, and feel confident that the vast majority of Australians will continue to care not one whit about the injustices being perpetrated in our name.

    I am also confident that, as indicated by the recent escalations in worrisome global trends, increasing climatic instability and attendant social disruptions will, probably within the next decade or two, unleash a flood of displaced humanity that will make the recent Syrian exodus seem like a mere dripping tap.

    I also feel rather confident that the predominant human response to this oncoming biospheric / humanitarian disaster will be a broad descent into behaviors of superstitious tribalism, where people take refuge from uncertainties by clinging to the familiar comforts of militant suspicion of ‘outsiders’ and irrational appeals to divine intervention.

    Does that qualify as ‘optimism’?

  30. Joseph Carli

    Wam..: ” Truth is as you believe.”……NO…there is truth, and there is what one wishes to believe. If I present you, Wam, with a loaf of bread and I say to you..: “Here is a loaf of bread.” ….You are free to “see” that loaf of bread as the body of Christ if that is what you will…but the truth will always and always remain that it is a loaf of bread….nothing more, nothing less…the delusion is in yourself, NOT the reality.

    If the crow has such “confidence”, why do they post a lookout to watch when I leave the orchard before signalling their comrades to now go and get some grapes?

    ” Waiting, waiting, the rain falls in stacatto’d drop
    Upon the waiting crow’s shellacqued back..
    It’s gimlet eye do espy
    From vantage perch in a tree so high
    Beauty’s last breath becomes roadkill death.
    And for a moment there is purity,
    Between the seconds of decision
    Before crow scavenges its flesh,
    All is in perfect plan..
    This island Earth.”

  31. corvus boreus

    Roadkill = animals killed on roads by humans driving cars.

    The other day I saw, for the first time, an Australian White Ibis feasting on roadkill.
    It was opportunistically darting out during breaks in traffic to snack on a disintegrating possum pancake, slurping away at the pulverized marsupial mince with it’s crazy-straw bill.
    In doing so, it joined a wide swathe of bird species, ranging from wagtails to wedgetails, that I have observed feeding upon the animal car-nage caused by human activities.

    I reserve more anger and scorn for the murderer than for the mortician.

  32. Wam

    Haha right on corvus borius your optimism in having such a level of support is confident as is your usage of words. I drive darwin to adelaide and back at least twice a year and love the sight of a wedgetail but who cannot but admire the power action of the crow. A cock of the head a couple of hops just off the road no fuss no rush absolutely beautiful.
    Joseph sorry but truth is as you are and as you see and as you believe and only in one moment of time.

  33. jimhaz

    Jordan Peterson, in his role as a clinical psychologist, has put up a series of uni level lectures on personality.


    I’ve only listened to a couple so far*, but intend to listen to them all. He is my newest intellectual hero and someone I think everyone should be listening to.

    He talks about what drives conservatives and liberals as sidelines. The far left does not like him because he is against SJW’s – but really he has extremely valid reasoning.

    *I started with Personality 07: Carl Jung and the Lion King (Part 1)

  34. Joseph Carli

    wam…: ” Joseph sorry but truth is as you are and as you see and as you believe and only in one moment of time.”….sorry, wam…but you know not truth, for if you did, you would not have need to speculate.

  35. corvus boreus

    If Wam truly knew the truth, Wam would not need to speculate.
    Similarly, if science truly knew the truth, science would not need to waste so much time and resource upon conducting such endlessly tedious research and experimentation.

    ‘Intellectual uncertainty is such a pretentious affectation’
    (a statement occasionally attributed to Socrates)

  36. Joseph Carli

    But corvus…wam HAS assured us that he indeed DOES know the truth…as he stated above..Science searches for a truth, hence the “time wasting”…

    I would say by the dissection of your Latin nom de plume, even you claim some truth..given that the rule for Latin re; adjectives, being that they must agree with the nouns they qualify in number , gender and case….Your corvus =crow/raven is identified with the description of boreus = of the north /northern…hence : ” Crow of the north”….it would seem both rule of grammar and the science of linguistics are used for your “truth”.

    It would seem the truth goes a long way back in Latin grammar!

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