Lawrence Durrell had a lifelong interest in and sympathy for the philosophy of Taoism. Since he read the Tao Te Ching which contains a description of the great motor of the universe and its works, he felt that it was what he believed in.
The first half of this short book covers the visit of a Chinese scholar called Jolan Chang to Durrell’s home in the south of France. The two men discuss the Tao as well as cooking lots of meals and talking about Durrell’s lifestyle especially the amount of wine he drinks.
The second half is sort of connected to the first half in that Durrell describes a winter visit to a Tibetan monastery near Autun, north of Lyons, where he’s been invited to a Tibetan New Year celebration. The book also describes his visits to various places in Europe with a lady called Vega who’s researching a book about Nietzsche and his infatuation with Lou Andreas-Salomé, a remarkable woman who had close friendships with Rilke and Freud.
Finally, the book returns to Taoism and Lao Tsu’s refusal to accept the limited concepts of language, he shows his wariness against the limiting effect of defintion:
It is when we come to speak of Beauty as a thing apart that we at once define Ugliness. So when goodness is seen to be good, then we become aware of what is evil…For this reason the Sage only concerns himself with that which does not give rise to prejudice.