March 27, 2010

Durrell's Tower

This tower is on the roof of the Ambron Villa in Alexandria. Aldo and Amelia Ambron were wealthy patrons of the arts. When they heard that Lawrence Durrell was looking for an apartment, they invited him to stay at the villa. He claimed this tower as his writing chamber. At that time, there were no apartment buildings surrounding the tower, and he could see Pompey's Pillar and Lake Mareotis from his perch. Here he wrote the sublime Prospero's Cell, and made the first notes toward Justine, which he called his "Book of the Dead." Eve Cohen, the young Alexandrian Jew who was the model for Justine and who became his first wife, was the only visitor allowed in the tower. There's a picture of her as a schoolgirl on Michael Haag's website. David Gentleman's watercolor of the tower was used on one Faber & Faber paperback of The Alexandria Quartet (left).

Unfortunately the Ambron Villa is under threat. I wrote an article about it here.

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