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Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by [Durrell, Lawrence]
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Bitter Lemons of Cyprus Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Length: 292 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Amazon Review

While Cyprus is often touted as a tourist destination, the origins of the prolonged war between the island's Greek and the Turkish communities are less well known. In Bitter Lemons of Cyprus--first published in 1957--Lawrence Durrell blends the story of beginning a new life in this beautiful place with an account of the conflict's beginnings. It is a narrative that retains political relevance today.

The book starts out like something by Peter Mayle or Chris Stewart, a forerunner of the "good life abroad" genre. Durrell is a hard-up writer looking for Mediterranean peace and a stunning old house--Cyprus obliges. But circumstances and Durrell's poetic genius ensure that the book is far more than a glib chronicle of hilarious events and eccentric neighbours. These exist in plenty, and Durrell writes about them with zest and great wit, but slowly he gets drawn into the unfolding tragedy of Cyprus's battle for self-determination.

The revolt ignites, and Durrell's tranquil life is shattered. His stay on Cyprus becomes one of great sadness, which he communicates with restrained fury as he describes the political transformations and paradoxes that overtake the island. In his poetic and loving descriptions of places and people--most of them remarkably steadfast in the face of political convulsions--there is an empathy and an attention to detail which provides a poignant memorial to a life which, it becomes clear, was shattered as much by the indolence of men in grey suits as by the violent spirits of the hills. --Toby Green

Review

"Sach's confiding tone draws us intimately into this vanished world." (The Sunday Times)

"Andrew Sachs' narration glows. He creates the world of Greek and Turkish Cypriots with warmth and humour, without a trace of caricature." (The Oldie)

"Anything read by Andrew Sachs is a joy." (The Guardian)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 618 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571201555
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (15 Dec. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0072314G2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #23,608 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer reviews

Top customer reviews

By Marand TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Aug. 2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I started reading this book whilst on holiday in Cyprus. My knowledge of the political history of Cyprus was sketchy, largely confined to the ancient past or the period immediately preceding the Turkish invasion in 1974. 'Bitter Lemons' records Durrell's experiences of living in what is now Turkish-occupied Cyprus in the years 1953-6. He arrived as a private citizen, looking for a place to settle and began teaching at a school in Nicosia. Shortly afterwards he accepted a Government position, essentially as a PR adviser although I suspect there was rather more to it than the low key role Durrell describes, if only because of his access to senior people within the colonial administration.

The book begins in high spirits, describing Durrell's initial experiences. There is a fabulous description of the house-buying process - almost a knockabout comedy - whereby he acquires a rundown house in the village of Bellapaix. You get a real feeling of his affection for the people around him and their reciprocation: unlike most expats living in Cyprus he wants to immerse himself in local life, something made easier by his ability to speak Greek (the inability of many expats who had lived in Cyprus for years to speak the language appalls Durrell). The characters that Durrell comes across come alive on the page. All this makes his final visit to the village before he leaves Cyprus unbearably sad.

Fairly quickly the book begins to describe the political situation in Cyprus, with the development of the Enosis movement which sought independence from the British and union with Greece. Durrell can see both sides and has friends in both communities.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this to remind me of the lyricism of Lawrence Durrell. Authors don't seem to write like this any more.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a great book. However, I wish the publishers would use a better quality binding - I took it on holiday (to Cyprus) and the heat melted the glue .....!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I lived in Cyprus for about a year and I have read and re-read this book a number of times. However, the more I read about Durrell and the more I read of the books that he has written, the more I feel that I no longer understand him at all, not even vaguely. In particular, I have just finished "Prospero's Cell", which relates to his first sojourn in the Greek-speaking world (in Corfu) and my reactions to "Prospero's Cell" have now influenced my feelings about "Bitter Lemons". In everything that I've read by Durrell so far, he says explicitly, and also implies, that he is a hellenophile of the highest order. Yet, throughout the book, his attitude to the Greek Cypriots is arrogant and patronising. Additionally, in the second half of the book, it is clear that his sympathies in the struggles between the Greek Cypriots and the British administration lie with his masters in the British administration. In addition, it is almost impossible to discern his real feelings about the Turkish Cypriot minority because of his contradictory representations of them... in the few places that he bothers to mention them at all. For example, the man who finds his house for him, Sabri, is a Turkish Cypriot. Durrell describes Sabri's "reptilian", "lizard-like", phlegmatic, stoic approach to life, yet Sabri makes a very sound choice of house for Durrell and deals extremely diplomatically and astutely with the Greek family that is selling the house. Additionally, Durrell writes that this "is not a book about politics", yet spends the entire second half of the book writing about that very subject, and in very great detail.

So, perhaps the best policy with this book is to do as another reviewer, Julianthebarbarian, suggests: only read the sections on village life and skip the second half of the book (about the politics) entirely.
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Have been to North Cyprus several times as I have family there, when visiting Bellapais, everyone makes a big thing about Laurence Durrell and his book, and yet probably, most people (like me)have never heard of him or the book,so I decided I must read it. I could not put it down, it is rich in description, and because I am familiar with the areas he talks about, it transports me there.I do not know if you would read or appreciate the book if you had not visited this beautiful island which has had so much tragic history, but if you are planning going, read the book or take it with you, and read it while sitting with your coffee, in the shadow of Bellapais Monastary.
one more thing, the house buying process has not changed much in 50 years!!!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell is one of those end of Empire books that many British writers attempted in the decades that followed the Second World War. Durrell's corner of the ever-to-be-sunlit territory was Cyprus, which in the 1950s was embarking on its own bid for independence and boasted its own continuing sunlight. The book has long been acknowledged as a classic of its indefinable kind, that mix of biography, travel, politics and memoir that is obviously literary whilst not apparently aspiring to literature. It is an impressionistic but deeply serious account of the experience of a participant in the brewing trouble and change. And now, almost sixty years after its publication, Bitter Lemons still has much to say about its setting and subject.

Lawrence Durrell went to Cyprus in the 1950s. At the start of the book, it is not obvious that he will soon be an employee of HM Government, a colonial officer charged with making sense of events that were already rapidly running towards violence and insurrection. The author's arrival and initial activity as a teacher form a light but keenly observed prelude to the book's later journey. The purchase of a village house in Ballapaix is both comical and empathetic. There is much that is farcical, but throughout the author presents himself as merely another participant. Nowhere does he express anything other than respect and affection for the local foibles and nowhere does he appear to place himself either detached from or in control of events. Equally, the school in which Lawrence Durrell works displays much that is caricature, but the scenarios are never anything less than completely credible.
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