IT IS APT that this political, social and literary history of Alexandria during the first half of the last century begins with Lawrence Durrell. He was never truly happy there during his wartime sojourn; but in describing Alexandria as 'princess and whore. The royal city and the anus mundi,' he created an impression of the place that many of those who have never visited it have been seduced by his art into accepting as the reality.
In 1977 Durrell returned to Alexandria to present for the BBC a film called The Spirit of Place. Gloomily he then acknowledged, 'I am extremely incurious, and my real life seems to pass either in books or in dreams.' Of those dreams his Alexandria was the most vivid, passionate and