[ilds] Durrell's endings

james Esposito giacomoesposito72 at gmail.com
Wed Apr 13 11:12:38 PDT 2016

As a lawyer, I must regrettably say that, if I were a judge hearing this as
a case, I would have to dismiss it, and order each side to pay its own
costs. I can see no way that there can be any resolution of the dispute
about Durrell's motives in writing "Bitter Lemons" if a critic such as Mr
Gerontopoulos takes such an intemperate view and refuses to see any point
of view other than his own.
Mr Gerontopoulos cites the work of C M Woodhouse. From what I have read of
Woodhouse, his stance as a Churchillian anti-communist calls seriously into
question his status as a philhellene and his impartiality as an historian
of the second world war in Greece or the subsequent civil war, especially
when he was a participant in the scenario he purports to describe
When Mr Gerontopoulos says "A reader reads according his own sensibilities,
cultural background and personal bias," he is of course not only laying
claim to his own arguments but also, perhaps unconsciously, validating the
arguments on the other side.
In my opinion it is deeply regrettable that there should be such "sides",
or such violent dispute about the merits or defects of "Bitter Lemons" or
any other of Lawrence Durrell's writing or, indeed, those of his brother
This type of invective is not attractive and it suggests to me, especially
when associated with a gratuitous insult offered to me by Professor James
Gifford for which he makes no attempt to apologise, that my joining this
group was ill-advised and I am therefore taking no further part in its
James Esposito

On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 7:58 PM, Panaiotis Gerontopoulos <
pan.gero at hotmail.com> wrote:

>    A reader reads according his own sensibilities, cultural background and
> personal bias. Redwine agrees with Whitewine  in describing ‘Bitter Lemons’
> as a fine, clear, concise, poetic book. I do not have the ambition to argue
> or answer to the insults launched against my nullity for having pointed out
> facts that Redwine, Whitewine, Gifford and Richard Pine, should have known
> long ago as official exegetes of LD’s writings.
>   The irony of the thing is that, far from being a slanderer of LD’s
> memory I think I have a better understanding of his misfortunes in Cyprus.
> To explain this, I have to recall another philhellene. In “The
> Philhellenes” C. M. Woodhouse, parachuted on a Greek mountain during the
> World War II, observes that his philhellenism and that  of his’ British
> companions fighting the Nazis on the Greek mountains, had nothing in common
> with the philhellenes of the 1820s and their aspirations, for catholic
> emancipation, parliamentary reform, republicanism etc. Their motives “were
> free of ideology”.
> After World War II, Woodhouse and many of his British mountain companions
> joined ‘The Friends’, alias ‘M16’, to fight communism. His personal
> involvement in creating the net of the operation ‘BOOT-AIAX’ aimed to
> topple Mohammad Mosaddegh is well known. It is also well known that, far
> from being directed against communism, that operation was directed against
> the nationalization of the ‘Anglo Iranian Oil Company’. In ‘Something
> Ventured’ Woodhouse acknowledges its catastrophic consequences that
> brought-back in power in Iran first the Shah and then, in 1979, Ayatollah
> Khomeini. He justifies his actions as follows:
> […] *What we did not foresee was that the Shah would gather new strength
> and use it so tyrannically, nor that the US government and the Foreign
> Office would fail so abjectly to keep him on a reasonable course. At that
> time, we were simply relieved that the threat to British interests had been
> removed**.*
>    Sic et simpliciter. The consequences of this and other operations  of
> the same kind are before our eyes in every day’s newspapers. The parallel
> between Mosaddegh and Makarios (the black-Mac as LD called him privately)
> and the resemblance of the M16 methods in defense of British interests in
> Iran and Cyprus, evoking in first place the communist threat is also
> striking.  In  January 1953, LD descended in ordered mission to Cyprus to
> defend the British interests evoking the communist threat, mixing sex to
> the political propaganda of the CBS, and trying to lull the ‘Enotist
> feeling’ by advertising in all directions his *philhellenism *and his
> ties with the Greek intellectuals of the ‘Generation of the 30s’.
>    They were fast to take distances from their former friend. Not because
> they were Greeks or Cypriots, as Richard Pine likes to believe, but to put
> it with George Seferis, in the last words of one of his last texts, written
> directly in French, at the request of Frederic Temple director of
> ‘Entretiens’, for a special issue dedicated to LD with the English title
> ‘Many Nightingales ago’
> *But I belong to another ‘private country and I would like to emphasize
> the word ‘private’* (LABRYS 5, LAWRENCE DURRELL July 1979)
> The Durrellian Temple published in ‘Entretiens’ two years after Seferis’
> death, a censored version of the original manipulating it so to hide the
> fact that, notwithstanding his deep human sympathy for Larry, in 1970
> Seferis considered him a former friend (an* ancient ami*). To avoid
> misunderstandings I transcribe in French the last paragraph of the original
> conserved in Seferis’ Archives of Gennadios Library of Athens, resounding
> Seferis thoughts on LD’s propaganda tactics in Cyprus unmistakably revealed
> in Bitter Lemons
> *Je disais tout à l’heure que ce soit le passé qui m’ait dicté ces lignes.
> Le présent - que l’on me passe l’anglicisme - n’est pas malheureusement
> très invigorant pour moi. D’autre part il y a longtemps que de
> circonstances fortuites ont voulu que nous ne puissions pas nous voir très
> souvent. Ainsi s’est tout naturellement que je me suis tourné vers Larry le
> poète avec lequel j’étais plus familier : - le roman n’est pas mon fort et
> je n’ai jamais attaché grande importan**ce à Durrell le fonctionnaire
> dont les drôleries diplomatiques ont fait rire beaucoup de gens dans les
> chancelleries. Ce n’est pas par puritanisme que je dis cela. Chacun a le
> droit de s’amuser comme il peut mais j’appartiens à une autre “Private
> Country”. Je tiens à souligner le mot “Private”. - Athénes 31 Mai 1970.
> George Seferis. *
> LD’s ‘*drôleries diplomatiques*’ in Cyprus, were certainly childlike and
> in last analysis much more harmless than the intrigues of Woodhouse in
> Iran. On the other hand  we cannot ignore that he served like Woodhouse
> the interests  of the collapsing British empire. Considering him a
> *philhellene* whatever  this word meant in the 1950s or can mean today is
> ridiculous. If not for anything else because he defined himself ironically *philhellenese.
> *Be it as it may it is offensive to his memory saying that he did what he
> did it for money taken in an *Agon between heart and head *letting the
> head always win. Like Woodhouse he was a fervid anticommunist and a devoted
> Tory and he had no obligation whatever to serve Greece.
> In conclusion, everybody has the right to amuse himself as he can and
> Richard Pine to press the Mayor of Corfu to rename the “Bosketto” in
> “Bosketto Durrell” or unveil bronze Bas Reliefs, paid by the multinational
> Luis Group, to honor the philhellene LD in  pathetic ceremonies framed by
> young Corfiots in local costumes, reminiscing Byronic klephts. In another
> point of his post, Richard Pine says ‘*If to be British/English is to be
> bad (in Greek terms) then there can be no philhellenes, hence no Byron*’.
> Hence, no Mr. Pine I suppose.
> P.Gerontopoulos
> ------------------------------
> From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2016 16:32:39 -0700
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> Subject: [ilds] Durrell's endings
> David,
> What you say is absolutely true.  Still.  This has been discussed before
> years back, namely, Durrell’s tendency to conclude (not the right word—no
> real conclusion) his fictions on a note of darkness or ambiguity.  I’m
> thinking of *Prospero’s Cell, Marine Venus, Bitter Lemons, Dark
> Labyrinth,* *Justine,* and even *Quinx.*  The move is from exterior to
> interior.  The lyric “Bitter Lemons” illustrates this beautifully—an island
> (indefinitely located) yields to reflections on some trauma (deliberately
> hidden).  A coda winds up a piece of art.  It’s a summation.  If the
> subject of this poem is Eve Cohen and if she embodies the mental state of
> “biter lemons,” then the whole book (or some major part anyway) is really a
> descant on Durrell’s troubled marriage and problems with women.  My
> interpretation, that is.
> Bruce
> On Apr 10, 2016, at 1:54 PM, Denise Tart & David Green <
> dtart at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> Yes, Bitter lemons, the poem, is a favourite. Tight, cryptic but evoktive.
> Hard to know what saying but I agree that it is personal poem about loss,
> loss of youth, loss of Eve and loss of beloved Greece. It was on Cyprus
> that Larry and Eve's relationship irretrievably broke down. There were
> black eyes and claw marks probably best left unsaid. Eve took Sappho away
> with her. His beloved Greeks turned on him, Panos was shot and attempts
> made on his life before he fled, never to live in Greece again. Tears
> Unshed may refer to that deep emotional pain that will never fully heal.
> Dunno - or perhaps something to do with true story never being able to be
> told. Larry may have left Greece but Greece never left him. When he bought
> the mazet near Nimes it was because the land there reminded him of Greece,
> especially Corfu.
> David
> Sent from my iPad
> On 11 Apr 2016, at 1:35 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
> wrote:
> David, I think you're on point about Durrell's memoir, Bitter Lemons.
> This is a good summation.  But what do you think about the coda, the short
> poem "Bitter Lemons?"  I see a shift--from the political to the personal.
> The hidden reference is to Eve and not, as you might expect, to the sadness
> of the political situation.
> Bruce
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Apr 9, 2016, at 6:51 PM, Denise Tart & David Green <
> dtart at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> 'Bitter Lemons' won the Duff Cooper prize in 1957 not because Lord Balfour
> would have approved or because it 'whitewashed' British complicity and
> folly in the Cyprus crisis, but because it is a fine book and, along with
> Justine, one of Durrell's best. It is clear, concise, poetic and
> energetically written with a well selected cast of characters who allow the
> author to tell the unfolding tragedy from a range of perspectives (Greek,
> Turkish, British) with wit, humour, wisdom, pathos and a sense of
> inevitable impending doom; all this through an excellent story arc that
> moves effortlessly from comedy to tragedy. As such it not a 'political
> book' in the sense of being an in depth critique of British policy.
> However, we are left in no doubt of the party line Durrell had to spruik,
> often reluctantly. The British community is portrayed as inept, boorish and
> insensitive to local feelings and culture. He shows that the British
> decision to close the door on Enosis was a mistake and !
> t!
> ha!
> t the Cyprus situation could not be kept as a colonial matter. Although
> not a fan of Greek administration he is sympathetic to their cause, but
> also represents the Turkish view and well as that of the administration.
> I have read Bitter Lemons several times and, given the balance of
> perspectives that Durrell weaves through his narrative, find it
> disingenuous to accuse Durrell of 'whitewashing' the British handling of
> the crisis. To suggest this is to suggest a different book to one I read.
> Durrell builds his story from the hint of menace in 'Voices at the Tavern
> Door' to a 'Feast of Unreason' and then 'Vanishing Landmarks'. He is as
> critical of British blindness and insensitivity as he is of the
> nationalistic rhetoric pouring out of politicians in Athens and Ankara,
> inflaming the local situation. The chapter 'Point of No Return' explores a
> range of perspectives here. In his role as school teacher, civil servant
> and inhabitant who could speak Greek and understood Greek culture and
> history, he was well placed to see all sides and this comes through.
> Durrell's pain, internal conflict and sadness are palpable; a Greek world
> that he loved and in which he hoped to live falling apart as he 'a!
> c!
> hi!
> eves nothing'.
> It maybe he is too sentimental about the so called historic friendship
> between Britain and Greece dating back to Byron's time, but we should
> remember that Durrell had the best of his youth in Greece and if we are in
> any doubt as to his views of the British administration, I shall leave you
> with the words of his friend Richard Lumley:
> "And I can see him now (Durrell) sitting in the hall, fairly pissed one
> evening, and the telephone goes and a long, increasingly angry
> conversation. And this is one of the top in the administration. And Larry's
> punchline I'll never forget - 'anyway, you're an inept cunt!' Howls of
> laughter and he puts the receiver down."
> Needless to say, Durrell's days in the diplomatic corps were numbered.
> David
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