[ilds] Durrell's letter to British Governor of Cyprus

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 25 12:20:26 PDT 2015

Yes, it will surely be an exciting talk.  And yes, Durrell wrote for different audiences and used different methods.

I believe the list discussed before “The American Institute of International Relations,” mentioned in Bitter Lemons, and someone (Richard Pine?) suggested the name was probably invented for fictional purposes, although Durrell claims elsewhere he wrote (anonymous? initialed?) articles of a political nature.

The fact he would do so is interesting, for that took away time from his poetry and fiction.  But he had a multi-faceted personality, and one facet was political, deeply involved in the complicated politics of the day.  It helps to be a genius.

Where are those quotations from—Russian proposals and Muslim views?  It’s useful to keep in mind that Russia has had a long interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, at least as far back as Catherine the Great.  And now we have President Putin keeping up the tradition.

Probably a whole conference could be devoted to Durrell on Cyprus.  Those are the crucial years in terms of his development and the political situation.  Moreover, as David Green points out, Bitter Lemons is simply a great book.  I think it’s underappreciated.


> On Oct 25, 2015, at 10:00 AM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
> That will surely be an exciting talk!  And let's not forget the articles Durrell mentions writing anonymous for an "American Institute of International Relations" in /Bitter Lemons/...
> One of the unspoken issues in Durrell's conflicted writings on Cyprus was the larger Cold War context, which seeps through in his non-fiction prose, such as his attention to the "Russian proposals" and the importance of Muslim views.  As he rather delicately puts it for the Turkish population, "they have shown a desire to be ruled by something a little more liberal than the Greek-oriented administration. One can respect their point of view, also, remembering that they are Moslems, and that counts for something."
> Which to my mind is to say, there are the things Durrell wrote for his job, the things he wrote for his reading public, and then the other things he nudges a reader to see he's aware of but not able to discuss overtly for either aesthetic or political reasons -- I tend to think such matters show up in a manner akin to Hemingway's theory of omission: through juxtapositions, palpable aporia, and irony.
> All best,
> James
> On 2015-10-25 9:49 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
>> Panaiotis,
>> Thanks for the letter.  I was unaware of it.  The last paragraph is
>> interesting, especially its guarded tone about working for the British
>> government on Cyprus.  He indicates that his Greek “personal contacts”
>> will disapprove of such an appointment.  George Seferis?  What or whose
>> “psychological obstacles?”  But I guess this is the subject of your talk
>> at the conference on Crete.
>> Bruce
>>> On Oct 25, 2015, at 5:13 AM, Panaiotis Gerontopoulos
>>> <pan.gero at hotmail.com <mailto:pan.gero at hotmail.com> <mailto:pan.gero at hotmail.com <mailto:pan.gero at hotmail.com>>> wrote:
>>> Dear All
>>> I do not know if the participants of this discussion about
>>> the/Retirement Age during the British Raj ,/Said's/Orientalism,/and
>>> Durrell's /Bitter Lemons/are aware of  the following hand-written
>>> application letter submitted by Durrell to the Governor of Cyprus in
>>> February 1953 or 1954. It was discovered  in the State Archive of
>>> Nicosia by Barbara Papastavrou Koroniotaki, and first published in
>>> /New Griffon/ (Gennadius Library, Athens) in 2003. Since then, it has
>>> been reproduced several times and should be taken into consideration
>>> in any discussion regarding Durrell's venture in Cyprus. Based on
>>> information collected from various sources I intent to present to the
>>> ILDS meeting in Rethimnon a paper on this highly controversial
>>> subject, and if accepted I hope to see you all there.
>>> P. Th. Gerontopoulos
>>> Bellapaix Abbey
>>> Cyprus
>>> Feb.17 1953
>>>            H.E.Acting Governor
>>>                        Island of Cyprus
>>>                        The Levant
>>>                                                                 Your
>>> Excellency
>>>   Thank you for the great kindness with which you received me an for
>>> your permission to reinforce my application for the post under
>>> discussion by a personal  statement in the form of a letter. The chief
>>> points which may have some bearing on my position  as follows:
>>> 1) I have been closely in touch with Greeks  since 1934 when I first
>>> went to live in the island of Corfu.
>>> 2) In the course of my F.O.  Service  I have had to prepare suitable
>>> material for the Greek press both in the Dodecanese Islands and in
>>> Alexandria. I helped in editing and orienting material for
>>> broadcasting from ESB to Greece [G. Haniotis was the chief radio
>>> feature editor at the time].
>>> 3) My name is well-known in Athenian and Cypriot literary circles and
>>> the Greeks of Cyprus have taken me very much to their bosoms. I have
>>> been the subject of admiring criticism in "Cyprus Letters" and the
>>> School  at which I teach has put an exhibition of my books about Greece.
>>> 4) In a brief Supplementary to my application I have noted  a few
>>> publications which have some bearing on Greece, the landscape,
>>> folklore etc and which might enable me to be credited with the special
>>> knowledge that comes from long residence in a country.
>>>    I do not know whether the wide circle of personal contacts I have
>>> made here would survive a public appointment such you have outlined;
>>> nor do I know whether I could secure the whole-hearted  cooperation of
>>> those who now consider me their friend. But the nomination of a
>>> well-known of a well-known Philhellene  to a post of this sort would
>>> place the Ethnarchy Council in a great dilemma since it is the Council
>>> itself to which I owe my present post. If I could clear away a few of
>>> psychological obstacles I might achieve a depth of penetration which
>>> would justify the existence of such a costly establishment as the
>>> CBS:and which might help to lull, though not to extirpate, Enotist
>>> feeling.
>>>                                                               I
>>> remain, Sir
>>>                                                               Your
>>> Obedient Servant
>>> Lawrence Durrell
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