“Bitter Lemons of Cyprus” a Book by Lawrence Durrell Essay (Book Review)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 25th, 2020

Book Publisher

Lawrence Durrell wrote and published the book “Bitter Lemons” in 1957. This autobiographical work describes Durrell’s three years in Cyprus Island. Lawrence Durrell lived in this island from 1953 to 1956. The publishing company was Faber and Faber. The book has gained much recognition in many parts of the world.

Summary of the Author’s Biography

George Lawrence Durrell was a British travel writer, dramatist, and poet. Durrell was born on February 27, 1912. He was the eldest son of Samuel Durrell and Louisa. He attended St. Joseph’s College in Darjeeling. He did not succeed in his studies. He began writing novels and poems at the age of 15. The British writer never wanted to be part of the United Kingdom. Durrell married Nancy Myers in 1935. The poet was unhappy with his life in Britain. The author spent years working for the United Kingdom Council in Yugoslavia and Argentina. He relinquished his duties in 1953. Durrell migrated to Cyprus together with his wife by the name Sappho Jane.

He wanted to start a new life as a writer. He also “wanted to have a new experience of the Mediterranean world” (MacNiven, 1998). He published many works such as The Quartet, The Alexandria Quartet, The Prince of Darkness, and Bitter Lemons. Durrell struggled with emphysema for several decades. He died in Sommieres after a severe stroke. Durrell died in 1990 at the age of 78 years.

Summary of the Book’s Plot

The book tells the story of Cyprus in the mid-1950s. Lawrence Durrell examines his life on this island. He gives a detailed account of the conflicts that faced the island during the time. After leaving his job as a British Council, Durrell migrated to Cyprus, where he wanted to begin a new life. The autobiographer settled in Bellapaix, a small village in the north. The book highlights the experiences on the island and the individuals he met during his stay (MacNiven, 1998). The author goes further to analyze the progress of the infamous Cypriot conflict or unrest. This movement destroyed the good history of Cyprus and plunged it into violence and chaos. The other basic event was the conflict between Cyprus and Britain. Cyprus also united with Greece in order to become independent.

The author also discusses how he purchased a new house in Cyprus. He also highlights the visits of his brother, Gerald Durrell. The other major character in this book is Durrell’s mother, who visits him while in Cyprus. Lawrence also worked as a teacher on the island. Lawrence “taught at the Pancyprian Gymnasium” (MacNiven, 1998, p. 73). The autobiography explains how “most the female learners fell in love with the author” (Durrell, 1957, p. 63). Many armed soldiers emerged in order to end the UK’s rule. The armed groups also wanted to end the reunion between Greece and Cyprus. Lawrence also became a press adviser to the United Kingdom’s governor in Cyprus (Thubron, 2012). This situation made Durrell insecure because he was encountering various assassination threats. According to this author, these armed militants were affecting the peace encountered in Cyprus. Durrell decided to leave this island without informing his close friends.

How the Book Relates to the Mediterranean Region

Durrell’s book gives a detailed analysis of the events and issues associated with the Mediterranean region. The events described in this book take place in Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. This situation relates closely to the Mediterranean region. Durrell purchases a new home on this island. This scene portrays the best aspects of Mediterranean negotiation. Some malpractices such as unfairness occur during this house-buying event. The description shows how such negotiations occur across the region.

The 1950s was full of unrest and chaos across the Mediterranean region (Mallinson, 2008). Cyprus was under British control and rule. The Greek government was using every strategy to ensure the locals revolted against British rule. The issue of the Turkeys also analyzes the conflicts encountered in the Mediterranean region. The world of political turmoil and unrest consumed the Mediterranean region. The author was no longer interested in the politics of the region because he wanted to write new books and poems. Durrell was “dragged into the world of politics after agreeing to work for the United Kingdom government” (MacNiven, 1998, p. 48). The decision results in new conflicts because his friends were no longer happy with him. He had become an enemy of the people on this island.

The book also describes the Cypriot enosis that took place during the time. The enosis resulted in the union between Greece and Cyprus. The author also analyzes the Cypriotic movement that took place during his stay on the island. This new movement was disastrous because it affected the peace encountered on the island. The movement plunged Cyprus into total violence, unrest, and chaos. Durrell’s settlement in Bellapaix also highlighted the nature of life in the Mediterranean (Mallinson, 2008). The autobiographer was able to lead a good life in a foreign world. This analysis gives a detailed analysis of the region.

The author identifies the characters in the book as loving, generous, and warm-hearted. This fact explains why the writer adores Cyprus. Most of the descriptions explain why Bellapaix is a beautiful village. However, political cynicism, unrest, and hypocrisy played a critical role in changing the history of this beautiful island and the wider Mediterranean region (Ker-Lindsay, 2011). This history of the Mediterranean becomes shameful because of every actor involved. The book explores how most of the characters in the book face the political turmoil of the Mediterranean region. The author encounters numerous challenges and obstacles in an attempt to fit into this foreign culture.

The author also describes Bellapaix as a wee village. The book does not forget “the presence of a ruined ancient monastery” (Durrell, 1957, p. 86). The abandoned monastery shows how the Mediterranean region is experiencing a religious shift (Ker-Lindsay, 2011). The political issues in this region are more critical. The author also explores the financial and commercial affairs of the Mediterranean region. Most of the power-hungry individuals in the region wanted to transform the island and drag it into the changing history of the Mediterranean region.

The Most Important Mediterranean Connection

The “events occurring in Cyprus, such as the revolt against the unending British rule is comparable to the events encountered in the wider Mediterranean region” (Mallinson, 2008, p. 84). This description gives the best picture of a nation that is struggling with its political environment and desire to become independent. The analysis also gives a true picture of the wider Mediterranean region. The author explained how “he abandoned himself to the increasing tide by simply keeping afloat” (Durrell, 1957, p. 102). This development gives a better image of the chaos and political issues encountered in this region. The situation affected the Cypriots because they were becoming childish and unable to address the issues affecting them. This analysis is critical because it informs the reader about the political changes that took place in an attempt to establish new states in the Mediterranean region. This connection is critical because the reader cannot understand this region without analyzing its historical past.

How the Author Views the Mediterranean

This autobiography presents two conflicting sides of the Mediterranean. The author wanted to live in Cyprus for the rest of his life. Cyprus was the best place because of its lovely and warm-hearted people. Durrell believed the Mediterranean was secure and friendly. The peace experienced in Cyprus gave a clear picture of the region. The author settled in Bellapaix in order to achieve his dreams. The region became troubled during the 1950s. This explains why the title “Bitter Lemon” describes the events encountered in the region. The military gangs made Cyprus inhabitable. The author also viewed the Cyprians as children because they are unable to live in peace (Ker-Lindsay, 2011). They were also unable to address the issues affecting their lives. Durrell left the region because the island was no longer friendly. Such descriptions give a clear picture of the events encountered in the Mediterranean region.

What I Have Learned About the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean is a nice place because the people are friendly and loving. This scenario changes a few years after Durrell arrives on the island. The political tragedy of the 1950s resulted in chaos and violence. Many people were unable to have normal lives because of this tragedy. This autobiography gives a clear image of the political, economic, and socio-cultural issues encountered in this region (Ker-Lindsay, 2011). I have now understood the political, religious, and historical aspects of the Mediterranean region. The people were unable to get along with one another, especially after the political tragedy. The above ideas are critical towards understanding the historical developments of this region.

Reference List

Durrell, L. (1957). Bitter Lemon. London: Faber and Faber. Web.

Ker-Lindsay, J. (2011). The Cyprus Problem: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Web.

MacNiven, S. (1998). Lawrence Durrell: A Biography. London: Faber and Faber. Web.

Mallinson, W. (2008). Cyprus: A Modern History. New York: I B Tauris & Co Ltd. Web.

Thubron, C. (2012). Journey into Cyprus. New York: Vintage. Web.




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