The Dark Labyrinth, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


This captivating Mediterranean novel was written by Lawrence Durrell immediately after finishing his exquisite vignette about Corfu, Prospero's Cell, and a decade before Justine.

The story is set on Crete just after the War, as an odd assortment of English travellers come ashore from a cruise ship to explore the island and in particular to examine a dangerous local labyrinth.

They include an extrovert painter, a spiritualist, a Protestant spinster with a fox terrier, an antiquarian peer and minor poet, a soldier with guilty memories of the Cretan resistance, a pretty convalescent and an eccentric married couple.To some extent the book is a roman a clef and Durrell's characters talk with great reality about their experiences, themselves and a certain psychological unease that has led most of them to embark on their journey.

The climax is a disastrous visit to the labyrinth, with its reported minotaur.

The novel is a gripping piece of story-telling, full of atmosphere and the vivid first-hand writing about Mediterranean landscape and people of which Durrell was a master.


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Lawrence Durrell is best known for his Alexandria Quartet, and his writings about travel in the Greek isles. As a long time resident of the islands and a diplomat in war-time Greece during World War II, he came to know and love the islands. I'm a huge fan of his Greece travel books, in particular The Greek Islands.Some time ago I learned of The Dark Labyrinth, a novel set on the island of Crete (originally published under the title Cefalu). I bought a copy a long time ago and finally got a chance to read it, it's been out of print for a long time. A group of travelers head to Crete to explore the Labyrinth and find the rumored Minotaur. The early part of the novel has the travelers on an ocean liner headed to the Mediterranean, each for their own reasons. Durrell gradually exposes us to the travelers, their lives and reasons for heading to the Mediterranean. Durrell absolutely skewers the pretensions of the passengers. The first half of the book almost feels like a comedy of manners or an A. S. Byatt novel fifty years early. I found myself laughing out loud, which doesn't happen to me very often. As the ship stops at Crete and the passengers sign up for a tour of the Labyrinth and to search for the legendary Minotaur, we enter Durrell's Greece. The thyme-scented mountains, the stories of the Greek resistance's mountain hideaways, abbots and monks and peasants, and the natural beauty of Greece come to the fore. The passengers encounter a disaster while in the labyrinth, and each finds their own fate while trying to escape. A bit of Greek legend, and bit of "Lost Horizons" bring the novel to an interesting philosophical close. The Dark Labyrinth doesn't rise to the level of the Alexandria Quartet, but it's good read, particularly for those who are interested in Durrell or the Greek islands.

Review by

When a group of first class passengers on a cruise disembark at Crete for a guided tour of a labyrinthine cave system at Cefalu, they are trapped by a rock-fall, with only Lord Graecan being on the right side of the rocks to make his way back out and raise the alarm. The back stories of the passengers (many of whom already knew each other) and how each of them reacts when facing death in the labyrinth, make for a fascinating story.There are sub-plots about the mysterious Axelos, who lives in a house at Cefalu, the ancient relics recently found in the labyrinth, and Captain Baird who is haunted by a man he killed in occupied Crete during World War II, enhance the atmosphere of the wild and mountainous island that permeates the book, and the story unfolds in a strange mix of realism, fantasy, and fakery.

Review by

A bit like _A Passage to India_ set in Greece with different travelers having their own take on the unique setting.