[ilds] Bitter Lemons and Academe

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 28 16:06:23 PDT 2016

Richard Pine’s comment on Durrell and Cyrpus strikes me as fair and reasonable.  It also conforms to my reading of Bitter Lemons.  I see nothing wrong, however, with exposing students to current “theories.”  They should be grown up enough to learn the “facts” of some aspects of literary criticism.


> On Mar 28, 2016, at 1:41 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com> wrote:
> As the Durrell Library mailbox is temporarily unable to transmit messages I am sending this from my personal mailbox.
> I find myself in the curious position of both agreeing and disagreeing with Panayiotis (his message is below)
> I agree with both him and James Esposito about the need to avoid technical jargon and obscure theories when discussing literary texts - except perhaps when they, the theory-critics, are doing so amongst themselves and not in front of the students. 
> But I disagree with Panayiotis' views on Durrell's philhellenism.While I can understand any Greek (and especially of course a Cypriot) suspecting LD's thoughts and actions, as  a member of the British 'occupation' of Cyprus whose job was to bolster the British fight against the enotists, I think Panayiotis is wrong to assume that LD was not a philhellene. He certainly came from a colonial background but there is plentiful evidence of his rejection of much of the Raj's purpose. I am certain of two things in his position in Cyprus: 1) he was obliged for financial reasons to work for the British and 2) he loved Greece and the Greeks all his life. The excerpts from his private notes which I quote in my book, regarding his view of the way the British were handling the enosis situation, convince me that he was reluctantly taking the money against his better judgement. A very clear parallel can be drawn between LD's attitude in Cyprus and that of W E Gladstone in the Ionian Islands in the 1850s when  he was sent to assess the enotist situation here. As a philhellene he believed that these islands should join the state of Greece; as a British government minister he was responsible for maintaining the link with Britain. In both cases, it was an agon of head and heart. 
> I do not see "Bitter Lemons" as a whitewash - it is clear to me, as a philhellene myself, resident in Corfu, that the book reflected this head-heart agon. It is also clear to me that it rightly attracted criticism publicly from writers like Roufos and Montis and, privately, from Seferis. But that does not diminish LD's anguish at the situation in Cyprus nor does it invalidate his undoubted philhellenism. But it deepens the problem of fruitful Anglo-Greek relations.
> One further point: yes, I (not 'Price') was responsible with Spiros Giourgas (correct spelling) in persuading the municipal authorities in Corfu to name the 'Bosketto', 'Bosketto Durrell' (not Durrell Park as , apparently, reported by Helena Smith in the Guardian). And subsequently a private sponsor paid for the placing of 2 bas-reliefs (not 'brass-busts') of the brothers Gerald and Lawrence in the Bosketto. This was not done by the municipality but it was done with their agreement. Panayiotis must surely be aware that Gerald loved Corfu, probably more than did his brother, because it meant almost everything to him in terms of what he achieved in adult life.
> RP
> ----------------------
> Whack, pow, thud. bang! Uurrah for teachers and critics, beware of and shame to irriverent grocers and pub-tenants dealing with high literature seated on their toilets where they belong. We heard all this, in this List in the few past days. The fact is that nobody put in question the need to have teachers and critics, provided they base their teachings and critiques on the contents of a text and on what we know about the circumstances under which the author wrote it. In other words in plain words, understandable by the "common reader"and the next door grocer. They are not so stupid after all. What is to avoid is to speak about simple texts using high flown words and post-modern lingos neglecting solidly established facts.
> Good examples of the accomplisments of this school of thaught are the various readings of Bitter Lemons as a marvellous travel book, taking in serious the first words written in 1957 by Lawrence Durrell in his preface:
> This is not a political book, but simply a somewhat impressionistic study of the moods and atmpspheres of Cyprus during the troubled years years 1953-1956.
> In 1957, the atmosphere in Cyprus continued to be troubled and in December, Bitter Lemons won for its author the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. The Queen Mother told him during the ad hoc ceremony held at Kensington Palace that she had enjoyed the book and Lord Salisbury, top exponent of the ultra-conservative Tories asking for tougher measures against the revolted Cyps, disected the book with a tender little speech (Mac Niven, A Biography, 464). 
> Actually, Bitter Lemons was an awkward attempt to white-wash the blind British policies in dealing with the decades-old demand of Greeks (including Cavafy) and Creek-Cypriots for self determination. Durrell was not a policy-maker and he is not to blame if he lied for his country but make of him a Philhellene is quite another story. Nonetheless, at the insistance of Dr. Spyros Georgas, "physician of elderly British aristocrats and retired civil servants who moved in the island from India in the 50s and 60s" and Richard Price [Pine?] director of the Durrell School of Corfu, the Bosketto Park of Corfu was renamed in 2006 Durrell Park (Helena Smith, the Guardian, September 22, 2006). In addition, in 2008, the Municipality of Corfu erected in the Park two brass-busts to honor furtherly the two authors and philhellene brothers.
> I believe that if Bitter Lemons were read with the pragmatism of a grocer, taking into account Durrell's letter to the Governor of Cyprus on February 17 1954, published by Barbara Papastavrou-Koroniotaki this embarassing situation could have been avoided and if only they could both brothers would agree. 
> Panayotis Gerontopoulos
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