[ilds] "a Western reference point for Cyprus in the 50s"

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sun Jan 20 07:19:29 PST 2008

Dear Listserv:

I found the following review in my mailbox this morning.  I have 
highlighted the sentences relating to Durrell.

As described here by the viewer, the article on Durrell sounds rather 
programmatic.  Can anyone tell me more?




*British colonialism in Cyprus: a bird's eye view*
*By Stavros Stavrou Karayanni*

*Hubert Faustmann and Nicos Peristianis, eds. Britain in Cyprus: 
Colonialism and Postcolonialism 1878-2006. Mannheim: Bibliopolis, 2006. 

THE last decade or so has been quite significant in the history of 
publishing on Cyprus since there has been a proliferation of insightful 
and groundbreaking works on the island's culture, society, and 
tumultuous history.

Britain in Cyprus: Colonialism and Post-Colonialism 1878-2006 makes a 
timely and valuable contribution to this body of work. The attributes 
that set this project apart are mainly its scope and size. It is a large 
and luxurious volume with more than 650 pages that feature 36 
wide-ranging articles unified by the theme of Cyprus' colonial as well 
as postcolonial history. The 36 contributions address a large variety of 
issues and connect politics, culture, tourism, language, and literature 
with British colonial rule of the island. In their individual 
trajectories these articles relate fascinating information, discussions, 
and methodological approaches.

With such a broad scope, this book will certainly appeal to all readers 
with even a remote interest in Cyprus as well as scholars of colonial 
and postcolonial fields of study. The writing varies from journalistic 
to theoretical to academic and various, often successful, stylistic 
blends of these three approaches. The quality of writing is not even 
throughout, as a number of articles are poorly argued, or they become 
repetitive, while others may lack structure or coherent methodology. 
Such unevenness might be expected in a work of this size, and it is 
somewhat balanced by the fact that the majority of contributions are the 
result of large amounts of painstaking research.

It is impossible here to summarise all the articles. Nevertheless, to 
give the reader some idea of the variety of topics dealt with in the 
book, I offer some general comments on those articles that created the 
strongest impression on me. Inevitably, these will be articles that deal 
with topics that have been my object of study, namely literature and 
culture. These topics are often undertheorised and undervalued in the 
male dominated arena of political discussions. *Petra 
Tournay-Theodotou's article "The Empire Writes Back" concerns itself 
with Greek Cypriot nationalist responses to Lawrence Durrell's Bitter 
Lemons of Cyprus, the novel that has, rather sadly, become a Western 
reference point for Cyprus in the 50s. Applying terms and concepts from 
postcolonial theory, Tournay-Theodotou establishes that the Greek 
Cypriot authors Rodis Roufos and Costas Montis "are caught up precisely 
in this dilemma of seeking self-representation while at the same time 
resorting to recurrent tropes of anti-colonial nationalist discourse".*

In a fascinating essay, Rebecca Bryant examines the emergence of 
literate colonised subjects in Cyprus and builds a case for the 
paradoxical constitution of Cypriots not as individuals in a democratic 
society but as social creatures belonging to a nationalistic moral 
community. Dimitra Karoulla-Vrikki investigates the critical issue of 
language and ethnic identity in colonial Cyprus, connects it to 
hegemonies and traces the division of the island's communities in 
linguistic terms.

The book's erudite ambition is of such quality that it makes me miss a 
more comprehensive coverage of cultural issues. The examples I refer to 
here stand in the midst of numerous articles on British colonial 
politics and the historical developments around the intercommunal 
fighting and desire for Enosis on the one hand and partition on the 
other. Indeed, Brendan O'Malley's "The Impact of British Strategic 
Interests on the Cyprus Problem" offers such an outstanding account that 
it becomes a landmark essay on the subject. However, since culture 
offers sites for emotional output, human bonding or separation, sharing 
of sensibility, embodiment of various subjectivities and identities, 
then examinations of culture offer valuable opportunities for critiquing 
and reassessing the various historical processes that concern many of 
the book's articles.

In their introduction to the volume, the editors outline the main goal 
of this project: "There has been no satisfactory comprehensive study to 
date, in English, of the British Colonial period in Cyprus (1878-1960). 
Nor has there been any systematic assessment of the relations between 
Cyprus and its former ruler since independence. This collection attempts 
to close this gap".

Indeed, this is a varied and extensive volume of work. However, it 
includes no articles on, for example, how colonialism affected 
identities other than ethnic Greek and Turkish; sexual and gender 
identities are left completely unexamined. Also missing is work on 
interventions and alterations to the Cypriot ecosystem and even 
legislation that affected the natural landscape of the island. Many of 
the articles concerned with the economy examine agriculture and the 
people's subsistent modes of survival. Work on the natural landscape 
would complement such studies. Imperial rule has also significantly 
affected the socio cultural landscape, ushering in all kinds of changes 
to various important cultural demonstrations such as wedding ceremonies 
and religious festivals. Again, these do not attract as much research 
attention as interpretations of various significant historical developments.

Nevertheless, this book stands as a significant accomplishment and a 
unique, so far, reference to Cyprus and its colonisation history that 
continues into the present in many ways that range from subtle to salient.

n Stavros Stavrou Karayanni, Chair, School of Humanities and Social 
European University - Cyprus

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008

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

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