[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- epigraphs

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue Jul 10 06:58:37 PDT 2007

On 7/10/2007 5:51 AM, Michael Haag wrote:

> The recurring theme of the epithets is the mix of peoples on Cyprus, 
> going back to neolithic times, and how they each seek advantage over 
> the other.

I believe that the epigraphs are interesting in themselves--as formal 
features of the book, working in concert or in choric commentary with 
the text of the chapters to which they are attached.  And I do find 
interesting Michael's point about the heterogeneous nature of the 
peoples of Cyprus. 

If Kipling had written on Cyprus, he would have used a similar technique 
as these Durrellian epigraphs in order to carry a point quite like 
Michael's about imperium and heterogeneity.  One need only glance at the 
chapters of /Kim /and at any of Kipling's short stories to be reminded 
of that.  Kipling was so very fond of proverbial wisdom and knowing 
utterances (Oregon Legends, Hindi Proverbs, Troop Songs, graffiti, 
inscriptions upon tombs, &c.) that I am tempted to call the epigraphs in 
/Bitter Lemons/ a Kipling-esque technique.  But I will admit that is my 
own strong reading at work.

When Kipling in /Kim /and George Eliot in /Middlemarch /use epigraphs, 
they tend to present epigraphs that work with some glancing irony, 
bringing up and highlighting for the reader the underlying strands of 
the story in the chapter.  Like a greek chorus, these epigraphs speak 
lift the specific situation of the events rehearsed within the chapter 
into universal categories--some deep truth about humankind.  A moral for 
the story.  Is this happening in /Bitter Lemons/?  Or are these 
epigraphs a Cypriot miscellany, gleanings lifted by our author from his 
notebook, interesting in themselves, but not deeply attached to the 


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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