Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

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Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

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Without this armed struggled against the British, Cyprus would have gained her independence probably 10-20 years later during the rise of decolonisation in Africa. But we were impatient and as a Greek proverb says Whoever rushes stumbles and we did. and we are still in the ditch. Having said that, this story was an engaging tale of life so far removed as to be in a galaxy far, far away. (My family experienced a similar immersion when we spent a week, without a car, on the island of Crete in the 1990s. Walking, using public transportation, eating and shopping along side the natives gives one a very different perspective than blasting through on a bus, boat, train or plane full of fellow tourists sipping prepared experiences, meals and tours of a locality.) Although he claims to hate politics, he takes a job as an Information Minister with the British government of Cyprus. True, it appears to have been an inopportune time, with, according to Durrell, Athens radio whipping up the stupid peasants with ideas of independence. I love reading memoirs and books on travelling, not because of “I learn new stuff about new places” nonsense, but because they help me to understand the stand of the writer; since those kind of books reveal how their writers perceive people and the world around them more readily and personally than say, a novel they design. So, when I got The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus out of a Kindle deal (I was planning to read the infamous Alexandria Quartet for a while and thought it would be nice to get the feel of Durrell’s writing beforehand), I was curious, to say the least. But then the grinding started.

Bitter Lemons - Wikipedia

Then, British troops shoot three youths "under severe provocation" in Limassol, a "trivial" incident. No greater detail provided. His greatest recommendation? More police. Because I am not really up to date of Cyprus history, Lawrence's descriptions while sensitive and non-accusatory kind of fly over my head. The only moral of the story I can draw out of it, is that wherever Britain tried to empire build they screwed up due to a kind of self satisfied blindness. Look at the revolution in India? Or the never ending troubles in the Middle East today, largely caused by Rule Britannica's meddling. So to with Cyprus, apparently, but I could not follow it at all, I crept through that part, a paragraph at a time and almost gave it up as a DNF. Given the lyrical prose of the Alexandria Quartet, I was expecting Durrell's nonfiction -- especially about someplace as quintessentially Mediterranean as Cyprus -- to be something rapturous to accompany my recent habit of drinking homemade liqueurs of orange blossom, mastic, frankincense, and apricot on my patio.Well, sort of. Lawrence Durrell loves Grecian-ness almost as much as he disparages actual, flesh-and-blood Greeks. He loves classical Greek thought, and certain modern iterations, such as a reverence for the poems of Seferis and Cavafy. But at the end of the day, he's a repulsive reactionary, a proud imperialist, and even though he's smart enough to see all the contradictions of the colonial regime in Cyprus -- the deliberate underdevelopment, the dimwitted little-Englander officials, the way repressive measures invariably give credibility to the anticolonial fighters, an honest respect for the idealism of the Cypriot youth who want freedom -- he still can't escape the notion that an abstract empire is the best steward of his much-adored classical civilization, and like his mentor T.S. Eliot, he far preferred myth to reality. One of the first schools in Cyprus open in 1812 (under Ottoman rule) in the capital, Nicosia, the Pancyprian Gymnasium. What is travel writing? Consider a book in which the narrative and characters pivot around a single tree, rooted to the centre of a lonely cliff-top village on an island almost forgotten to the world. The tree is more than a totem or a metaphor: rather it is a geocosmic force around which the entire Earth rotates. Younger villagers feel it’s centrifugal effects, spinning them out to sea to be caught up in strong currents and carried off to other lands. The old have learnt to get close to the centre of the force, where all is stillness, willingly embracing the inertia beneath its shady branches. The most successful in the art of doing very little have enjoyed its peace for so long that their olive-coloured wrinkled skins are indistinguishable from its roots and its branches. It is then the ‘Tree of Idleness’ around which the book pivots.

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell - Faber Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell - Faber

During his stay, Durrell worked first as an English teacher at the Pancyprian Gymnasium, where several of his female students reportedly fell in love with him: Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures—and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.…"

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Whilst this all happened 5 years or so before I was even born, what happened to those characters was of interest to me, as I see some of their traits, behaviours, spirit, friendliness, and generosity in the Greek (mostly Cretan) people that I have the honour to call my friends today.

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus - Lawrence Durrell - Google Books

He writes as an artist, as well as a poet; he remembers colour and landscape and the nuances of peasant conversation ... Eschewing politics, it says more about them than all our leading articles ... In describing a political tragedy it often has great poetic beauty.' Kingsley Martin, New Statesman The British underestimated Cypriots because most of them knew Cypriots as lethargic subhuman beings, and Durrell has for chapter's 11 epigraph a very racist and vile paragraph taken from W. Hepworth Dixon's book British Cyprus Now, I personally have a rather unique privilege: I come from a family whose formally educated members are mostly “first generation educated.” Some of us did not make it past third grade most were the first in their immediate family to ever get a formal education, a couple halfway made it there but then dropped out and at least a couple hold multiple degrees from Harvard. And I know that we’re all the same, except in our ability to generate income. We share dignity, dreams, love and folly. The author uniformly treats the lesser-educated Greeks and Turks he meets in his travels as non-deserving of their blessed land, “Cyps” he calls them, and while he laments this attitude among his peers, he fails to see it in himself. First, let us talk about the writing itself: gorgeous, of course. At time a little over the top, always evocative and very visually descriptive with the ability to make both the island of Cyprus and it's inhabitants spring to life. I think the first person narrative gives one an excellent character to follow through the story (though whether it might be a close portrayal of the author I have no idea) and see the countryside through, as it were.

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I am aware what happened to Cyprus after Lawrence Durrell returned briefly to the UK (before living out the rest of his life in France) but I shall never know what happened to some of the Cypriot characters who helped and befriended him in the few years he called Cyprus home, and that to me is also sad.

Bellapais Journal; Bitter Memories of a Love Affair With Cyprus Bellapais Journal; Bitter Memories of a Love Affair With Cyprus

The reportage on the civil unrest contrasts sharply with the lyrical passages about the island's beauty and long history, and this brings the book to a poignant conclusion as Durrell prepares to leave the island and a way of life he so clearly loves. His early chapter about buying a house in Cyprus is easily one of the funniest things I've ever read. It was only in the hours after reading it that I had to reflect that, hang on, this guy sounds like a real jerk. This book also awakened me to the diffi We had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time-- those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.” (p.19)Although the title gives the game up, this book is like a perfume whose opening notes of neroli and lemon give way to something uncomfortable and off-putting, like strong imortelle. In the first third, helped immeasurably by his knowledge of Greek, Durrell is getting settled in, and it's a sort of Cypriot Under a Tuscan Sun. The chapter in which he buys a house aided by the wonderfully cunning Turk Sabri is alone worth the price of admission. He is a memorable character. Memorable enough to be eulogized in the New York Times, of all places. Sabri died only in 2000, apparently gunned down. I first encountered Laurence Durrell as the bossy older brother in Gerald Durrell's books about his family's life on the Greek island of Corfu (My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts, and Relatives; The Garden of the Gods). Later I came to know of him as the author of The Alexandria Quartet (still haven't read that) and other books. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus is Durrell's account of his time spent living on Cyprus in the 1950s. Written in an erudite yet graceful style, the book describes the beauty of the island, the leisurely pace of life there, and some of the colorful local inhabitants. The British are still holding the island as a colonial possession but things are peaceful and largely positive until Greece begins agitating for the "return" of the island (many of the Cypriots are of Greek origin or ancestry) bringing the issue of ENOSIS (union) before the new United Nations. This causes the Turkish Cypriots to call for independence, not because they dislike the British but because they want a voice in what happens to the island. Gasp! Oh! Greeks were let to keep their own religion and freedom and language and even local government! How can that be? It must be only because Turks did not have a superior culture to enforce upon others. Seriously, Mr. Durrell? This is how you read the political situation at the Mediterranean or at any place? Turks didn't impose their culture, language and religion upon others forcibly –unlike British- just because they'd assumed what they had was not worthy of imposing? Your friends must find your firm faith in human modesty quite refreshing, I am sure. The nerve of the clueless imperialist who readily accepts the first explanation that comes to his mind, off the top of his head.) I have never seen Pentadactylos' castles as Gothic before reading this book. In addition all the chapters that didn't have to do with the bitter struggle were the ones I loved. Buffavento, Saint Hilarion, Kantara, all these castles were built one after the other along the narrow Pentadaktylos mountains, but sadly when you search for them on Google you see them as castles in Northern Cyprus.

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