Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria villa faces demolition
Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria villa, the inspiration for the author’s Alexandria Quartet, is at risk of demolition. The building is now owned by a businessman who has plans to build an apartment block, according to The Guardian.
Villa Ambron was one of the fulcrums of Alexandria’s cultural life. Built and owned by architect Aldo Ambron – one of a then 70,000-strong Jewish community that has all but vanished – the house has been home to dignitaries including Italy’s exiled king Vittorio Emanuele III, and leading Egyptian painters Saad el-Khadim and Effat Nagui. “It was the place to be seen if you were an artist,” said Awad, who has led the fight to save many of the city’s buildings.
After fleeing Nazi-occupied Greece, Durrell lived in the villa’s top floor for much of the second world war with his Alexandrian second wife, Eve Cohen – who was the inspiration for Justine, the heroine of The Alexandria Quartet. Durrell wrote the novel Prospero’s Cell in the house’s distinctive octagonal tower.
The building is a mess, which you will see if you click through to the Guardian article. The Alexandria Quartet is a series of novels published between 1957 and 1960 about characters and events in Alexandria before and during World War II. The first three books concern the same events but each offer a different perspective. The books are Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958) and Clea (1960).