[ilds] Bitter Lemons as a novel

Richard Pine richardpin at eircom.net
Sat Jul 14 01:22:03 PDT 2007

If the late Ronald Reagan was under the impression, for at least some of the 
time, that as President he was acting in a film, there is a possibility that 
his diaries read like a filmscript - does that mean the script is fiction or 
non-fiction? Documentary, biopic or just another of the B-movies he excelled 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Gifford" <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
To: <ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2007 4:21 AM
Subject: Re: [ilds] Bitter Lemons as a novel

>I think this is where biography and 'theory' comfortably meet in a
> productive way.  I'm admittedly not comfortable calling _Bitter Lemons_
> non-fiction, though the fashionable label "creative non-fiction" might
> suit it better.  I can have a reasonable expectation that the recently
> released Ronald Reagan diaries will be genuine non-fiction, while a
> novelist & poet's travel memoirs (admittedly stocked with "characters")
> obviously don't have quite the same series of expectations.  How we sort
> out those differences isn't something I claim to know in detail, but I
> would suggest our discussion of the topic (apart from specific
> instances) would qualify as a theory...
> Michael is quite right (and I suspect he's suggesting something a little
> broader) when he notes that the main players are oddly absent for a
> non-fiction narrative.  Those omissions are as much a 'fictionalization'
> of the materials as factual changes would be.  After all, without Claude
> or Eve, Durrell's time on Cyprus becomes something quite different from
> the biographical 'truth.'
> Yet, my thoughts have been wandering for a while around a question posed
> by a short while ago by Charles.  This has since been elaborated by
> others: how do we read _Justine_ beside _Bitter Lemons_?  We've already
> had some good suggestions for the richness in such a reading, for which
> Michael has led the charge.  I think this is a rich vein to strike.
> Also, Durrell acknowledges _BL_ as part of an island trilogy, so to
> speak, and this description encourages the reader to pursue other
> comparisons.
> Similarly, since Michael first pointed out that _Justine_ was written
> without an intention of a full Quartet, I've been pondering how I would
> have read it in that first year, fifty years ago.  Durrell openly poses
> _BL_ in relation to _Reflections_ and _Prospero's Cell_, though we as
> readers see an advantage in placing it in conjunction with _Justine_.
> That's our move as readers, and I think it's a good one.
> How, then, do we read _Justine_ as a stand alone novel appearing
> concomitantly with _Bitter Lemons_, but as overt fiction?  Personally, I
> think we read it beside _The Black Book_, and that has been troubling me
> ever since Michael's talk last summer.  We have a pretentious narrator
> on a Greek island enjoying the landscape recalling an urban environment
> of his past, which is surrounded by sexual innuendo and a host of
> sexually peculiar characters, all the while with that narrator reading
> the textual evidence left behind by those characters of the abandoned
> city (diaries and letters).
> I know this strays from _Bitter Lemons_, but it has been nagging at me.
>  If we're going to look at _BL_ as tied to the travel books, which I
> think is just as viable as tying it to _Justine_, then what do we do
> with _Justine_ in that anna mirabilis of 1957, before _Balthazar_?  I
> suggest we pretend to be readers who have some rare copies of those
> earlier books sitting on our bookshelves.  If my collection only ran to
> 1957, I think the comparison between the various volumes would leap out
> readily enough...
> To what degree do we see Durrell repeating and improving on the pattern
> he established in _The Black Book_?  Does _Bitter Lemons_ do a similar
> 'thickening' of the text in comparison to _Prospero's Cell_, as Clifford
> Geertz might phrase it?  If that's the case, what does it mean for
> _Bitter Lemons_ if we read it as a development out of the same spirit of
> inquiry that drove Durrell's search for the spirit of place on Corfu and
> Rhodes?
> Best,
> James
> Michael Haag wrote:
>> The first edition of Bitter Lemons has photographs of Grivas, Field
>> Marshal Sir John Harding, the Hodja, Clito, Frangos, Andreas
>> Thalassinos, Andreas Menas, Kollis, Sabri Tahir, the Muktar, Loizus and
>> Lalou. But there is no photograph of Marie, who was Marie
>> Millington-Drake; she was real. Nor of the person under observation, nor
>> the daughter, nor of Durrell's mother, but they were real too, as were
>> various others. Then there are the people who were real and who were
>> there but are not mentioned, the most glaring example being Claude,
>> without whom ...
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