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Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,205 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
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 ...more
Published July 1st 2009 by Playaway (first published 1957)
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Andrew Schirmer
Jan 18, 2012 Andrew Schirmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Commandaria - Κουμανδαρία. Cypriot wine. Sweet, quite different from all the other things you've been hearing about Cyprus lately. Lovely stuff, similar raisiny flavor profile to a PX sherry, but less syrupy and cloying--you can drink this without fear of developing type-2 diabetes. People in Bitter Lemons are always slipping off for a glass of the stuff on some terrace or another. I had to try it.

Although the title gives the game up, this book is like a perfume whose opening notes of neroli an
Kyriakos Sorokkou
Feb 11, 2017 Kyriakos Sorokkou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a political book, but simply a somewhat impressionistic study of the moods and atmospheres of Cyprus during the troubled years 1953-56
or to be more precise during the armed struggled against the British.
Lawrence Durrell, 1957

A British perspective of the 1950's in Cyprus

I've chosen to write in English, because English is a window to the world, like it or not.

His descriptions of the Pentadaktylos mountains are eerie and romantic (with romantic I don't mean romantic as in St. Valentine
Sep 21, 2014 Travelin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: started
I bought this because I enjoyed his little brother's account of life in Greece very much. I was also hoping to learn more about Greek influence and Cyprus as a tourist destination.

Although the first paragraphs of the book are quite purple, it seemed to promise to deliver the goods on stereotyping Cypriot Greeks, if only, it turns out, because Lawrence Durrell is so British.

I have a tiny, short tourist guidebook for Cyprus which happens to dismiss this book in one sentence. I thought that would b
beautifully written, this book helps you understand Cyprus and more broadly how people go from somehow getting along to civil war, sort of... Here is a citation from the opening of the book about the value of travel, that I love:

“Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will--whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our nature-- and the best of them lead us not only
Passive Apathetic
I love reading memoirs and books on travelling, not because of “I learn new stuff about new places” nonsense, but because they help me to understand the stand of the writer; since those kind of books reveal how their writers perceive people and the world around them more readily and personally than say, a novel they design. So, when I got The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus out of a Kindle deal (I was planning to read the infamous Alexandria Quartet for a while and thought it would be nice to get the fe ...more
Lynne King
Dec 24, 2012 Lynne King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this many years ago and loved it. Rereading it has just confirmed how brilliant Lawrence Durrell is. If you want to hear all about Cyprus, well this is the book for you. All said and done!

But then I love all of his works...
Lawrence Durrell recounts his time in the mid-1950s in Cyprus - an island divided by religion and turmoil, yet so similar across the spectrum. We experience the beauty of the island and the warmth of family and community. In Cyprus during the nationalist violence - a move to become part of Greece - he ended up leaving the island after becoming a target of assassination attempts as political upheaval continued in his wake. But despite the fact that Durrell lived there for a few years, as a teache ...more
Mar 28, 2009 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(FROM MY BLOG) Israel is again accused of killing and otherwise abusing innocent civilians in its attempt to control the Gaza strip. Israeli commanders, according to today's New York Times, admit that people have been shot and houses destroyed unjustifiably, but claim that overall they have been judicious in their use of force.

Israel's posture in its conflict with the Palestinians calls to mind a book I just finished re-reading: Bitter Lemons, by Lawrence Durell. Durell is best known as the auth
Jan 01, 2013 Juliana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first read by Lawrence Durrell who is most famous for the Alexandria Quartet. This is just a little memoir of the three years he spent on the island of Cyprus. While the book starts out a light-hearted memoir not unlike Under the Tuscan sun--expat moves in and begins renovating a house surrounded by local colorful characters--the book eventually turns a bit darker. Cyprus was rapidly ending its relationship with the British empire and terrorism and nationalism was taking hold.

So int
Jan 15, 2016 4triplezed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, europe, travel
This is the first Lawrence Durrell book I have read and he is certainly a superb writer. A description of his time spent in Cyprus during "Enosis", Greek Cypriots demand for union with mainland Greece, this made fascinating reading. I had spent a week in Cyprus in 2000 and his description of the people and some of the places had me recalling that very pleasant week of my life.

For all the enjoyment of the book I suspect that like another author I like, Patrick Leigh Fermor, I may not be in agree
Mar 17, 2014 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I read Bitter Lemons in the 60s or 70s. It introduced me to the cultural clash between Greeks and Turks. Oh, I had studied history and I knew there had been wars between them, but I didn't know the length or depth of their antipathy. (Surprisingly, I have since visited both Greece and Turkey and was struck with how similar their cultures are on the surface.)

This book also awakened me to the difficulty of an outside power (in Crypus' case, the United Kingdom) trying to impose peace on a populatio
Apr 23, 2008 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, he's a priggish imperialist and anyone who commits phrases to print like "you can't go giving away bits of an empire willy nilly" sort of deserves whatever happens to his property holdings...But write with a lovely command of locale, sentiment and atmosphere. All of which amount to either an interesting retelling of an era or, at least, a lovely evocation of a place. I mean, I'm baffled by Justine, too, but some of its prose is pretty.
Mar 07, 2017 Sarper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a bit too much racist against Cypriots but sometimes Durrell tries to understand EOKA and what Enosis really is. It portrays the political atmosphere in Cyprus from the perspective of a British man who believes that Britain is still an Empire.
Traveling Diva
Jan 29, 2012 Traveling Diva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-all, memoir
It was a wonderful experience reading this book. How often does one read a memoir, written by a poet, set in a tumultuous period among a beautiful backdrop of landscape and people? It is, unfortunately, all too rare. But what a pleasant surprise. The very first paragraph of the book is so masterfully written that I was drawn in from the start and didn't want to put it down. Having said that it is not a fast read, for I found I got caught up in the poetic descriptions of a village and region I ha ...more
Very nicely written though sad account of an idyllic place and its descent to becoming a war zone.

I don't know much about Cyprus other than what I read here. I am sure there are other "angles of vision" as he calls them, meaning both what different groups thought at the time, and what people might think now looking back. Still it was pleasant both to get his impressions of village life, but also his thoughts on the issues as he saw them.
Sep 21, 2013 Eleni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every Cypriot should read this book despite the very British approach to the writing it talks of the beautiful island that I know and love so eloquently that it honestly made me emotional at times. With all the tough times in Cyprus's economy at the moment this is a hopeful message to give about Cypriot resilience!
Athan Tolis
I mainly read nonfiction, so it was almost magical to read Lawrence Durell’s prose. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus (carefully chosen to coincide with my Greek vacation) has transported me for a week to a mesmerizing corner of Greece that no longer exists, or rather only exists in people’s memories.

And that’s because this 58 year old book takes you back to the last few years when Greeks and Turks coexisted on the beautiful, God(s?)-blessed island of Cyprus. The author set off to write another one of his
Kris Kipling
Briefly, Durrell's account of his years in Cyprus. Bitter years indeed. All began well - a sleepy, sunlit country, with oranges and pomegranate trees peeking over whitewashed village walls. Men beneath the shade of the "Tree of Idleness" drinking coffee, playing cards in the afternoon. And Durrell buys a house, in a splendid scene of Mediterranean negotiation (howls at unfairness, pulling of hair, the back and forth tug, before theatrical tearful relenting), in a wee village in a sun-soaked sett ...more
Feb 24, 2017 Alexey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Аннотациям верить нельзя. Книга — рассказ автора о паре лет, проведенных им на Кипре в 1953-54 годах. Вероятно, это были последние годы, пока остров еще можно было называть единым и мирным одновременно. Поначалу откровенно чувствуется, с каким высокомерием автор смотрит на местных жителей, хоть и называет их при этом друзьями. Постепенно этот оттенок исчезает, уступая место мыслям о тяжелой политической ситуации на острове, приведшей к тяжелым и кровавым последствиям. Прими тогда англичане прави ...more
Aug 24, 2010 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men with serious moustaches
British writer and poet witnesses firsthand how empires fail. He recounts his time living in Cyprus when the locals — who usually come across in his writing as childlike marvels, unsophisticated and charmingly quaint — chafed under and then violently opposed foreign (British) rule. His restrained prose aptly describes people and place and allows the reader — even one as initially ignorant of Cyprus as myself — to develop a clear picture of the time and situation.

Characterization of the locals th
Oct 09, 2012 V.J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy, I did find this hard going. Apart from the obscure vocabulary and even more obscure literary allusions though, there are some of the most stunning and evocative descriptions of this country that you are likely to encounter.
Lawrence also has the same gift as his brother,Gerald, for depicting the charming quirks of the characters he encounters, and there are some delightful episodes such as when he attempts to negotiate the purchase of a house, which has all the melodrama you would expect fr
Soulla Christodoulou
A beautifully written literary book with great insight into the passion of Cyprus

I downloaded this book to help me with my research for a historical fiction novel I am currently working on. I am born of Greek Cypriot parents and have visited Cyprus many times over during my childhood and as an adult with children of my own. I know the country and the warm kind hospitality of its people. The history surrounding EOKA has been a minefield and this book and the account it portrays is real, from the
Nov 17, 2014 Giorgia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-eu
In breve, il libro bilancia benissimo lo spettacolo naturale e storico dell'isola con un'analisi e il resoconto del periodo difficile dell'enosis (Cipro lotta per l'autoderminazione e l'unione alla Grecia), introducendo dei personaggi secondari meravigliosi. Due passaggi brillanti sono il capitolo in cui racconta come acquista la casa (è da sbellicarsi dalle risate) e quando si reca al campo dove sono detenuti i guerriglieri dell'EOKA e ritrova dei suoi ex alunni (molto toccante e triste).
Nov 29, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
This was a slow moving book ( until the end), about life on Cyprus in the mid 1950s, during the struggle for independence. The book is almost diary like of Durrell's stay on Cyprus. I enjoyed his writing, and the descriptions of Cyprus, but I actually wish that he had discussed what happened in Cyprus after he left.
Karen Gallant
Aug 07, 2016 Karen Gallant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read, I've learned a lot from this book. I now understand more about what led to my father spending six months with the UN peacekeeping force there in the 1960s. It is quite a moving book. Durrell has quite a strong descriptive writing style which can be at times quite poetic.
Oct 20, 2016 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ohhh I love Lawrence Durrell's writing. I have traveled back to his books; I have a lovely 'stack' of eBooks in this 'travel' genre now waiting for me. Lovely.
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]I bought this book for the Cyprus connection, but in fact its application is much more general and less specific. Durrell moved to Cyprus in 1953, and left after the outbreak of the EOKA campaign in 1956, and the book is a heartfelt chronicle of how the innocence of a beautiful country was destroyed by violence.[return][return]Up to now, I knew of Lawrence Durrell mainly from the odd mention in his brother Gerald's lovely books about collecti ...more
Feb 26, 2017 Cynthia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. I love historical travel-type memoirs that take me to places I haven't been so I can explore the location, geography and culture through the author's eyes and words. In Bitter Lemon, we start off with the author traveling to Cyprus to live, to write, to buy a home and immerse himself in its people. He does that in spades. The whole sections on his befriending the locals, buying and renovating his home are charming. When internal war and strife break out over En ...more
Sep 23, 2016 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. This book has two quite distinct sections. The first half is light and funny. He drinks lots of wine, makes friends, and goes through an epic battle to buy a house. Then things fall apart and get dark. He joins the Cyprus government just as the island descends into violence and civil war and things never lighten up after that.
Merritt Corrigan
Dec 16, 2016 Merritt Corrigan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely and haunting work of nonfiction, chronicling British writer Lawrence Durrell's experiences in 1950s Cyprus. The first third of the book was a lyrical portrait of a sleepy Mediterranean island, which I, knowing nothing prior about the political history of Cyprus, expected to be more or less the thrust of the entire book. The island is then, however, thrust into chaos as Cyprus undergoes the political awakening that drives them to throw off British rule and seek Enosis (union with Greece) ...more
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Lawrence George Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for The Alexandria Quartet novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell’s prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose ...more
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“I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time - those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything.” 25 likes
“...books everywhere piled up in heaps, the rare companions of a solitude not self-imposed but sought.” 8 likes
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