The Narcissistic couple from hell - in literature.
Clea says of Justine that "like all amoral people she verges on the Goddess"
In the 4 novels written by Lawrence Durrell, about people in Alexandria Egypt, a couple leap out by their obvious narcissistic behavior. I would never have understood such people without first understanding narcissism. They are a diabolic dyad, bent on using everyone to get ahead. Justine and her husband Nissen resemble several couples I have know who live in "open" relationships, where they can prey on others, both sexually and emotionally, all the while aiding each other in this game. The game has to be amusing, the people they play with have to give them pleasure and attention - eventually they are discarded, of course. The Narcissistic couple is one we see in politics and in our neighbors. They are the perfect alpha pair, the one everyone envies. If you only knew what goes on behind closed doors... If they get you into their narcissistic net, watch out!
Also central to the novel is Durrell's notion of love. Justine, whose title alludes to the Marquis de Sade's novel by the same name, attempts to redefine love, or to define it in modern terms. But in many ways, the relationships the narrator describes—in which sexual desire as well as knowledge and narcissism play a large part—raise more questions than they answer about the nature of love
The most provocative aspect of Justine might be Durrell's critique, much like that of his mentor Henry Miller, of puritan or Victorian notions about love and his depiction of a kind of love that is more sexually liberated, nonpossessive, and intellectually complex. The "peculiar type of love" (p. 191) between the narrator and Justine is described as narcissistic enjoyment of a mutual experience in which neither feels the need to possess the other; the relationship fosters personal growth but not deep communication. The narrator speaks disparagingly of the "other feelings, compassion, tenderness and so on," which "exist only on the periphery and belong to the constructions of society and habit" (p. 105). Yet there are many indications that the love Durrell describes is itself problematic. First, this new definition of love could simply be a self-serving justification for following the impulses of sexual desire. The narrator wonders if his and Justine's relationship is "a banal story of an adultery which was among the cheapest commonplaces of the city," and a story that "did not deserve romantic or literary trappings" (p. 87). Further, his own pain and jealousy at reading the novel written by Justine's ex-husband raises doubts, as do other elements of the novel, about the non-possessive nature of their relationship. Finally, the destruction of both Justine's husband, Nessim, who descends into madness, and the narrator's partner, Melissa, who ultimately dies, suggests that the price of this kind of love may be very steep. We must ultimately ask whether Durrell is depicting love as it ought to be, unfettered by outdated sensibilities and possessiveness, or whether what he describes is actually the failure to love completely or maturely.
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