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History repeating itself........
on 19 May 2007
The first issue here is over the name of the book, It is NOT `Bitter Lemons of Cyprus'; it was published as `Bitter Lemons', and that title has far more contextual meaning. Lemons are bitter sweet, and that defines Durrell's relationship with Cyprus, his village, the villagers and indeed the UK, which he generally referred to as Pudding Island. I will declare an interest: I adore Cyprus; this book was a main reason for me to visit, and subsequently, some 20 years ago we bought an arty house in a beautiful village. We have spent eight years living amongst some of the most generous, open and warm-hearted people on earth. This rings out from Durrell's book too. His descriptions are precise, accurate, affectionate and objective. In parallel with his attempts to make a home in the fabulously arty and beautiful village of Bellapaix, we watch in horror as the strategic political hypocrisies and cynicism play out at courtyard level. This era of Mediterranean history is not without shame for all the actors involved in it, and the victims are invariably the individuals caught up in the dangerous world of international politics mixed with nationalism, fear and misunderstandings; made the more dangerous by external meddling. Sounds horribly familiar to events elsewhere in the world, thereby proving that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. This book is a salutary lesson of the problems faced not only in buying a house in a foreign country, but also the problems of buying acceptance into a foreign culture, and inevitably the tragic price of failure. Bitter sweet. Bitter Lemons, indeed.