[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- The Great Year of 1957 (David Green)

Charles Sligh slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu Jul 12 20:58:07 PDT 2007

Dear ILDS listserv:

I am without my laptop and therefore without my default passwords for
moderating, so I am passing David's thoughtful posting on Bitter Lemons via my
own address.

I hope perhaps that Jamie or Bill might be up and on call, but this note is
forwarded in case they are not.

Moderating in the midnight hour,



I must say the novel Bitter Lemons has really got people going. When we
back from tempest tossed New Zealand yesterday there were so many LD
list emails that the system
collapsed. Looks like there has been a lot of cut and thrust out there
but maybe it's time for be nice to academics day. There are so few of us
and the world is truly a better place for our being here. I know it is
sad that the top tables are now filled with penguin suited millionaire
sports stars, Armani clad actors and singers, second string politicians,
hack journos with half finished novels in the drawer, and lesser crested
parasites with eating disorders and criminal tendencies, a situation
that has forced we sensetive souls below the salt, but we must go
forward to ultimate victory secure in the knowledge that most of the
aforesaid persons are deeply envious because we have letters after our
names and they don't. Yes, they have the right to remain stupid. but
everything they say can and will be ignored.

to Durrell.

1) Drink. In Bitter Lemons LD comes clean about his vinous nature,
almost from the outset we see him pleased at the prospect that Cypriots
'drink to excess'. In Prospero and Reflections Durrell's enjoyment of
wine is told through 'civilized' gatherings such as at the Count D's
house or through such characters as Zarian 'making an exhaustive study
of the island's wines' and Gideon whose arm conveys wine to his lips
with 'the regularity of a varsity oarsman'. In Bitter Lemons we
encounter blatanty Durrell's own enthusiasm for the fruit of the vine.
Was he drinking more at this time? or is it a sign of his emerging
confidence as a writer that his own nature can be more truly told. I
think both. Bowker's biography (sorry RP) suggests that Durrell, sans
two wives, and in a tense environment, hit the booze and cigarettes in a
big way. But he is also inviting us to share more of himself. In
Prospero and Reflections he is more an observer. In Bitter Lemons, we
live much more through the character of the writer himself. If this
makes Bitter Lemons perhaps less enchanting than the earlier island
books, we are compensated by a driven, vigorous prose. Durrell is not a
passenger watching the passing scenery, he is in the driving seat, can
of wine open and all.

2) How to buy a House. here we meet the three races; Greeks, Turks and
English. though this is a humorous chapter, I am drawn to make two

Firstly, the point made by, I think Michael Haag, about cartoon
characters. The Greek familiy selling the house are alsmost a send up of
a Greek family selling a house. The scene borders on farce with wailing
mothers, stick waving grandpas, car chases and flat tyres; it's almost
keystone cops.

Sabri is the cartoon Turk, almost out of some medieval story. I see a
satin gowned turbaned Sabri, clapping hands for instant servants who
appear and vanish as if by magic. Sabri, the calm reptillian, cunning
and yet, ultimately, honest Turk.

Secondly, as regards the interaction between Turk, Greek and perfidious
Albion which ultimately works out well for all parties, is Durrell not
showing us an outcome that may have resulted for the island for all
parties with a little more cultural sensetivity?  Could I suggest that
LD is saying that, if the British administration had been more Durrell
like, the crisis may have been averted?

Durrell suggests that all the Brits had to do was give the Cypriots a
parliament in which to express themselves and a university or two to
provide a sense of achievement on their own terms.

In Australia, Canada, the USA and elsewhere schools, universities and
parliaments were granted to the colonials. This was not done in Cyprus
and Durrell says this was a major problem.


David Green

Denise Tart & David Green
16 William Street, Marrickville NSW 2 4

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