A brief nod to Lawrence Durrell appears in the opening of “Alexandria, Remembered: Once Upon a Time in Egypt” (Foreign Policy, 25 April 2011):
But by midcentury, King Farouk — a lackadaisical ruler in the best of times — had grown deeply unpopular among Egyptians and was deposed in a CIA-backed coup in 1952. Cosmopolitan Alexandria’s polyglot identity — half a dozen languages were spoken on the city’s streets — and indelible links to Egypt’s colonial past were an uncomfortable fit with the pan-Arab nationalism that took root under President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the late 1950s and 1960s. “[W]hat is this city of ours?” British novelist Lawrence Durrell, who served as a press attaché in the British Embassy in Alexandria during World War II, wrote despairingly in 1957 in the first volume of The Alexandria Quartet, his tetralogy set in the city during its heyday as an expatriate haven. “In a flash my mind’s eye shows me a thousand dust-tormented streets. Flies and beggars own it today — and those who enjoy an intermediate existence between either.” By the time of Hosni Mubarak’s rule (and largely in response to his secularism), Egypt’s second-largest city had become synonymous with devout, and deeply conservative, Islam.