[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- "tactful speech"

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed Jul 11 14:43:32 PDT 2007

In Chapter 4: How to Buy a House," Durrell observes:  "By a single 
tactful speech I had made a true friend"  

    The taxi driver with the /ouzo/. 
    Manoli and General Envy. 
    Durrell and Frangos. 
    Durrell and Clito. 
    Clito and his Wife.
    Durrell and Sabri. 
    Sabri and the woman who owns the house. 

I have come to see that the whole of /Bitter Lemons/ thus 
far--character, plot, drama, moral, history, politics, what have 
you--might be characterized by that curious phrase, "tactful speech."  

Let us study this closely.  Differences and difficulties do not 
disappear.  Self-interest certainly never goes away.  But "tactful 
speech" allows for living without violence. 

I recall Durrell mentioning "current misunderstandings" in his 
"Preface," and later he worries about the effect of "bad manners."   I 
am seeing each little drama played out in each chapter as lessons 
against the larger "misunderstanding" that followed.  That these 
episodes are hilarious makes them all the more fine, all the more human.

By the way, this time through /Bitter Lemons/, I am marveling at how 
each chapter eclipses the last.  Each introduces something a bit better 
than the last.  Better drama; more striking rogues for our gallery; more 
closely-etched descriptions of place.  The visit with Sabri; the 
rain-soaked tour of the house at Bellapaix; the negotiations over the 
purchase of the house that Durrell did not want (!)--these are all of a 
high order. 

What will come next?  I am making myself forget in order to enjoy more 


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

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