The Black Book (Durrell novel)

The Black Book is a novel by Lawrence Durrell, published in 1938 by the Obelisk Press.

The Black Book
First edition cover
AuthorLawrence Durrell
SeriesThe Villa Seurat Series
PublisherObelisk Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Preceded byPanic Spring 
Followed byCefalu 


The story is set with two competing narrators: Lawrence Lucifer on Corfu, in Greece, and Death Gregory in London.

Publishing history

Faber and Faber offered to publish the novel in an expurgated edition, but on the advice of Henry Miller, Durrell declined.[1] It was published in the Villa Seurat Series along with Henry Miller's Max and the White Phagocytes and Anaïs Nin's Winter of Artifice.

Although published in 1938, Durrell wrote the novel primarily over a 16-month period from September 1935 until December 1936.[1] The novel shows several surrealist influences, and these may be in part related to materials from the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition, about which Henry Miller was sending Durrell materials from Herbert Read.

The initial publication was in Paris as its sexual content prohibited publication at that time in England. It was published in the US in 1960 but not published in Great Britain until 1973, following the successful courtroom defense of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.


In reviewing it in The Observer, Philip Toynbee wrote,

This is a wild, passionate, brilliantly gaudy and flamboyant extravaganza; it is intrinsically and essentially, the book of a young man Durrell was 24 when he wrote it richly obscene, energetically morbid, very often very funny indeed, self-pitying, but, above all, stylistically and verbally inventive as no other young man's novel of the period was even attempting to be.

Durrell told an interviewer that when he arrived in London in 1937, at Victoria Station, after a long period abroad, the first thing Hugh Gordon Porteus said to him was that Wyndham Lewis would 'have it in for him', because of the 'portrait' of Lewis in The Black Book. Durrell replied that he had never met Wyndham Lewis.[2]


  1. MacNiven, Ian S. (1998). Lawrence Durrell: A Biography. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-17248-2.
  2. In conversation with D G Bridson, date of broadcast 27 01 1963, from CD - BBC/British Library, The Spoken Word, Lawrence Durrell.

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