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Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals 1956. London: Penguin Books, 1987.

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Presentation on theme: "Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals 1956. London: Penguin Books, 1987."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals 1956. London: Penguin Books, 1987.


3 “The Gloriously Comical Adventures of a Young Naturalist” Lawrence Durrell’s younger brother Became a renowned naturalist Started trusts in several corners of the world Went on expeditions to find animals Worked to reform zoos Wrote books to fund his projects Jersey Zoo= most important project (breeding of endangered species)

4 Zoo Reform (from The Stationary Ark) Zoo’s main purpose should be to help endangered species survive A secondary purpose should be education Zoos shouldn’t be for entertainment; non- threatened species should be returned to the wild Animals should be in zoos as a last resort

5 Corfu, 1935-39 Family moves to the island from England on a whim It’s a perfect environment for Gerald He learns to interact with the locals Studies all the wildlife Writes My Family from the point of view of a young son It’s not about Corfu but rather it’s bugs, birds, and reptiles!


7 Humor as Technique From the beginning, he sets the tone. “This [story] was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters..”

8 “… It was only with the greatest difficulty.. that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals.” (9) In first chapter, thanks his family: “They, after all, unconsciously provided a lot of the material, and helped me considerably during the writing of the book by arguing ferociously and rarely agreeing about any incident on which I consulted them.” (10)

9 Disclaimer “Lastly, I would like to make a point of stressing that all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true. Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas.” (10) As a young, curious English boy who begins to learn the local language, he has access to the island and its inhabitants in a way his other family members never do

10 Note: The book is written in 1956, which is about 15 years after he left. He took lots of notes while he was there. His viewpoint is from a special point in time. He had no part in the decision to live in Greece; nevertheless, he made good use of all his time

11 Getting Started “July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden sky. A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it.” (15) “It was Larry, of course, who started it. The rest of us felt too apathetic to think of anything except our own ills, but Larry was designed by Providence to go through life like a small, blond firework, exploding ideas in other people’s minds, and then curling up with a cat-like unctuousness and refusing to take any blame for the consequences.” (16)


13 Ela! It’s Larry’s idea to pick up and go to Greece— and they do: Mother, Larry, Leslie, Margo, Gerald We “fled from the gloom of the English summer, like a flock of migrating swallows.” (17) Note: What does it take to pick up and move to another country, culture, language group?

14 Corfu Town

15 Colorful Character #1 Spiro They need to hire a car to find a house, but “the taxi-drivers, perceiving our innocent appearance, scrambled from inside their cars and flocked round us like, each trying to out-shout his compatriots.” (27) “Actually, we were being treated to the mildest of mild altercations, but we were not used to the Greek temperament, and to us it looked as though we were in danger of our lives.”

16 “’Yous wants someones who can talks your own language.. The bastards.. If yous will excuses the words… would swindles their own mothers. Excuses me a minute and I’ll fix thems.’” (28) “He turned on the drivers a blast of Greek that almost swept them off their feet.” “’They calls me Spiro Americano.. I spent eight years in Chicago.. That’s where I learnt my goods English. Wents there to makes moneys. Then after eight years I says, ‘Spiros, yous mades enough,’ sos I comes backs to Greece.’”


18 Spiro=Key Knows everyone Can get anything done Looks out for the family Becomes part of the family The townspeople “respected his honesty, his belligerence, and above all they adored his typically Greek scorn and fearlessness when dealing with any form of Governmental red tape.” (33)

19 Love of Place “The bougainvillaea that sprawled luxuriously over the tiny front balcony was hung, as though for a carnival, with its lantern-shaped magenta flowers.” “In the darkness of the fuchsia hedge a thousand ballerina-like blooms quivered expectantly. “ (31)


21 True Focus Bugs and such: lady-birds, carpenter bees, hawk-moths, black ants. “At first I was so bewildered by this profusion of life on our very doorstep that I could only move about the garden in a daze, watching now this creature, now that, constantly having my attention distracted by the flights of brilliant butterflies that drifted over the hedge.” (38)

22 Peasant Girls Passed the garden every morning and evening In the evening, they would hold out gifts for him: grapes, figs, water-melon Comes to understand them: “What had at first been a confused babble became a series of recognizable separate sounds.” (41) “Suddenly these took on meaning, and slowly and haltingly I started to use them myself;

23 ..then I took my newly acquired words and strung them into ungrammatical and stumbling sentences.” (41) “Our neighbours were delighted, as though I had conferred some delicate compliment by trying to learn their language.” “They would lean over the hedge, their faces screwed up with concentration, as I groped my way through a greeting or simple remark, and when I had successfully concluded they would beam at me, nodding and smiling, and clap their hands.”

24 Absorbs Corfu as a Sponge Because he can speak to the peasant girls, he learns all the gossip He and his dog Roger become known all around the surrounding countryside Old Mrs. Agathi teaches him peasant songs “We would strike a mournful note and sing ‘Why are you leaving me?’ We were almost overcome by this one, and would wail out the long, soulful lyrics, our voices quavering.” (46)

25 Run of the Island Tries to decide where he should go for snacks: Leonora would give him figs and break but talk his ears off Taki would be having his siesta but Gerald could wake him up Christaki and his family would ask too many questions So he goes to wake up Yani instead! (72)


27 Dr. Theodore Stephanides Fellow naturalist, doctor, writer, poet Treats young Gerald as an adult They have Thursday afternoon excursions to find insects and such around he island Becomes life-long friend of the whole family Writes a biological treatise on Corfu Three species are named for him

28 Naturalist as Danger Finds a mother scorpion with a mass of babies clinging to it (136) Smuggles them into the house so he can watch them grow up Carefully maneuvers them into a matchbox Is called into lunch After lunch, brother Larry picks up the matchbox

29 Mother Scorpion crawls onto Larry’s hand “He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand [Larry] sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti as she thumped on the cloth.” (137 ) Larry: “’That bloody boy.. Every matchbox in the house is a deathtrap….”


31 Goes through a series of tutors and pets Pair of magpies are esp. notorious One day when Larry forgets to close his window, they slip in and attack They “had been through the room as thoroughly as any Secret Service agent searching for missing plans. Piles of manuscript and typing paper lay scattered about the floor like drifts of autumn leaves, most of them with an attractive pattern of holes punched in them.” (247)


33 Kosti: Colorful Character #56 Prisoner, but allowed to go home on weekends Gives Gerald a troublesome gull Kosti is in jail.. For killing his wife! Gull terrorizes the rest of the menagerie

34 Return Mother and Gerald must return to England so that Gerald can do high school Back up all their boxes, bags, and trunks The magpies squawk from their cages The Swiss customs official writes on their form, under “Description of Passengers”: “One travelling Circus and staff”


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