[ilds] The Great Year of 1957

Richard Pine richardpin at eircom.net
Fri Jul 13 01:10:24 PDT 2007

Interesting, to read Bitter Lemons as a novel.... Comments? RP
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Denise Tart & David Green 
  To: Durrel 
  Sent: Friday, July 13, 2007 4:43 AM
  Subject: [ilds] The Great Year of 1957

  I must say the novel Bitter Lemons has really got people going. When we got 
  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 observations

  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 2204

  +61 2 9564 6165
  0412 707 625
  dtart at bigpond.net.au


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