[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- General Envy

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue Jul 10 10:24:22 PDT 2007

On 7/10/2007 12:46 PM, Michael Haag wrote:

>         This is a book about a man's experience of life, and nobody
>         wants to get close to that life. 

Does Durrell let us get close to that life in /Bitter Lemons/?   Durrell 
cetrainly gives us a striking sense of the life.  All of these stories 
make up his "impressionistic study," as he calls /Bitter Lemons/.   I 
think that the historical or biographical life is on the other side of 
those impressions.  Bruce has written at length that he thinks that 
Durrell is dodging his readers, putting up shadows.  Michael has already 
written about the strange hints at a "daughter."  Shadows, impressions, 
hints, what have you. 

Bruce can tell us more about what is behind Durrell's game of 
diversions.  (His latest post on Durrell's anthropological strategies 
does this, I think.)  Until then, I will offer another specific 
"shadow":  General Envy. 

I will be pleased to learn that in fact General Envy was based upon 
someone in the real world.  Was he real?   I wonder.  Someone knows, I 
suppose.  Whatever the case, General Envy marks why we are not reading 
straight history.  If General Envy was not invented or renamed by 
Durrell, then I will celebrate his tobacco-stained moustache in another 
way.  But if General Envy is "based" upon a real person and then renamed 
"Envy," then with that name Durrell has given him additional layers of 
significance beyond a straight record of historical life.   Envy's name 
suggests that he is woven from the stuff of Allegory.   Really, the name 
is too good to be true. 

I think that the anecdote about Manoli & General Envy shows us something 
about /Bitter Lemons/.  Durrell presents this recollection as a 
highly-compressed version of what has happened elsewhere between himself 
and the taxi driver.  "That is what happened /whenever /Briton and 
Cypriot met, even to exchange the merest civility."   I am supposing 
that this last unversal declaration applies to Manoli's change of heart, 
not to Manoli's rolling eyes and nodding head!


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

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