[ilds] re Bitter Lemons and Durrell attitudes to colonialism

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Tue Apr 5 14:19:53 PDT 2016

Hi Robin,

I wonder if the question isn't so much his seriousness but rather how 
much he was a "party man" for the British position -- he certainly mocks 
the British and distances himself from Britishness to varying degrees 
and in different circumstances, yet in his job he did was he was told 
until he decided to leave.

I'd also suggest that it's hard to read /Bitter Lemons/ without feeling 
deep sympathy with the Cypriot characters.  Durrell, of course, couldn't 
write a book against the British position, so he wrote one that was "not 
a political book" in which the reader's emotional sympathies clearly 
lean to the Cypriots.  I'm reminded of the character Lawrence Durrell in 
his short narrative "Oil for the Saint" who bemoans tourism on Corfu 
only to be told by Kerkyra that the tourists bring much needed money, 
thank-you very much -- that the story was printed in /Holiday/ magazine 
makes the point.  Of course he wrote it to encourage tourism, first 
because it paid, and second because it was good for his friends.  But 
saying so through the mouth of his character Lawrence Durrell wouldn't 
suit the purpose.  In essence, the text shows us this rather than tells 

I tend to think much of that happens in /Bitter Lemons/ as well.

All best,

On 2016-04-05 1:06 PM, Robin Collins wrote:
>   I feel a bit out of my reach here, but when I read Espirt de Corps
> (pub.1951?) a long time ago, while I didn't find it hilarious by any
> stretch, I didn't get the feeling that LD took himself or the diplomatic
> corps (and bey extension British colonialism) particularly seriously. It
> was a job to him, a source of income so that he could write...
> Anyone have a more recent memory of this book?
> Robin
>     Message: 1
>     Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2016 19:05:13 -0700
>     From: James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com
>     <mailto:james.d.gifford at gmail.com>>
>     [...]
>     As you know, I tend to read Durrell as often ironic, and many don't
>     agree with me -- I've said on the listserv in the past that I look to
>     the opening of /Bitter Lemons/ in exactly the same way as I look to the
>     opening of /Justine/ in the same year.  It speaks in the contradictions
>     but not in what's said, much like the closing interpretation of silence.
>     Justine opens with Freud & Sade, but I think it's Freud *vs.* Sade, and
>     the cut or unspoken portions are the most important.  Likewise, /Bitter
>     Lemons/ opens with its claim "this is not a political book" but follows
>     up an epigram that makes the irony pretty overt: "A race advancing on
>     the East must start with Cyprus" followed by grand conflicts between
>     nations and imperialism then a closing reference to how important the
>     Suez Canal makes Cyprus.  It's always struck me as something like "of
>     course I could not write this book if it were a political book, so it
>     isn't -- by the way, I'm lying."
>     [...]
>     All best,
>     James
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