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Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,960 ratings  ·  196 reviews
Bitter Lemons of Cyprus is Lawrence Durrell's unique account of his time in Cyprus, during the 1950s Enosis movement for freedom of the island from British colonial rule. Winner of the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, it is a document at once personal, poetic and subtly political - a masterly combination of travelogue, memoir and treatise.

'He writes as an artist, as well as a p
Paperback, 276 pages
Published July 3rd 2000 by Faber and Faber (first published July 1957)
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Initially my reaction as an Hellenophile is one of sadness and sorrow at the short sighted-ness of the British Government at the time.

I shall think on this review for a while 😔

I am at rather a loss as to where to start with this review. I finished the book, which was in my opinion, superbly written, very poignant and at times witty, with tears in my eyes. Why, well as i have said above, I have a great love of anything Greek, as I think did Lawrence Durrell, and so I found the stupidity of mainl
Andrew Schirmer
Jan 18, 2012 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
Lynne King
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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...
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Kyriakos Sorokkou
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
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
Bitter Lemons of Cyprus captures the trials and tribulations of the Greek Cypriot fight for self determination from the British Empire. Told from one man's perspective - a Brit who initially moves to Cyprus for a change of scenery and warm weather and ends up working as a public affairs officer for the foreign office - it is a story that is insightful, charming and sad. Well worth the read for those interested in this period of history, or have an interest in mid 20th Century life on Cyprus. ...more
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, travel, history
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 places had me recalling a pleasant week time.

For all my enjoyment of this very fine read I suspect that like another author I admire, Patrick Leigh Fermor, I may not be in agreement with a fe
Durrel had been five years in Serbia and really wasn’t sure if he wanted to live in the Mediterranean anymore. He couldn’t afford to live in Athens so the next best thing after that was Cyprus. Decision made he makes his way to Venice to get the boat there. Falling into conversation with a man there, he questions why Durrell wants to go there at all: ‘It is not much of a place’, the man says, ‘Arid and without water. The people drink to excess.’ To Durrell, it sounded perfect.

As they depart, the
Traveling Diva
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 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
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
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am reading this again many years later and i love it.The descriptions of Cyprus and the cypriots is just beautiful,and the landscape, the sea ,and the house he buys and fixes.The dark cloud of war hangs over this memoir ,some accept the englishman and some do not.Lawrence Durrell lived in Egypt and Greece and England and Cyprus for some years.He speaks Greek and that makes him a more welcome figure in the tiny village he chooses to settle in. Now i want to go back and read his other books and ...more
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
(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
Harishankar G
Jun 13, 2021 rated it liked it
"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 natures—and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.…"

Durrell was an extensive travel writer who has lived in several Greek and Italian islands, and also wrote books about them. H
Czarny Pies
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Western Chauvinists
Shelves: english-lit
Bitter Lemons is a passionate plea for "enosis" (i.e. the unity of Greece and Cyprus) written in the 1950s when Turkish and Greek Cypriots were at war. Lawrence Durrell loved Western Civilization with a passion and believed fervently that the great Greek genius of classical era was still alive in the 20 th century. As a teenager, I was utterly convinced.

Durrell rages against his country for having put Cyprus under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. Durrell was of the opinion that the juris
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
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
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for Durrell’s elegant writing and loving evocation of the beauty of Cyprus, the character and personalities of its Greek and Turkish residents, and his great pleasures during his three years living there (1953–1956). He leaves, sad and dismayed, as a result of the Greek rebellion against British rule.
Four stars for the story, which was too short. I wanted more!
Audio narrator perfect; he could not have been better.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I first encountered Laurence Durrell as the bossy older brother in Gerald Durrell's books about his family's life on the Greek island of Corfu (My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts, and Relatives; The Garden of the Gods). Later I came to know of him as the author of The Alexandria Quartet (still haven't read that) and other books. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus is Durrell's account of his time spent living on Cyprus in the 1950s. Written in an erudite yet graceful style, the book describes the be ...more
Athan Tolis
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 13, 2018 added it
Shelves: memoir
Given the lyrical prose of the Alexandria Quartet, I was expecting Durrell's nonfiction -- especially about someplace as quintessentially Mediterranean as Cyprus -- to be something rapturous to accompany my recent habit of drinking homemade liqueurs of orange blossom, mastic, frankincense, and apricot on my patio.

Well, sort of. Lawrence Durrell loves Grecian-ness almost as much as he disparages actual, flesh-and-blood Greeks. He loves classical Greek thought, and certain modern iterations, such
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas
This is a British author writing about an uprising in the British colony of Cyprus in the 1950s. Of course, it’s a little biased—no surprise there. My having just visited Cyprus and having accompanied a good friend back to the occupied side for the very first time since the 1974 invasion of her village, was the catalyst for my wanting to read this book. Photos and our experience can be viewed here:

I enjoy Lawrence Durrell’s poetic proses very much: “the
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sadie Slater
Reading Race of Scorpions, which is set largely in Cyprus, reminded me that I had a copy of Lawrence Durrell's book about the time he spent living in Cyprus between 1953 and 1956 (handily shelved next to the Dorothy Dunnett). I bought it years ago, probably about the time I read Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, but didn't really get on with the writing. Still, I hung on to it, and I thought I'd give it another go.

There are some beautiful descriptive passages which made me long to se
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
A power-house of a novel, with a bucolic setting, Durrell’s love for this war torn land is evident so much it literally feels like it’s seeping off the page like sap, sticky residue long abiding the skin.

The 1950’s anywhere, we’re an era where everyone had the same want for a halcyon life, or more the appearance of one - But Cyprus feels more like the 1930’s of the first world, a time that called for heroes, that rewarded only the brave & Durrell, a scrappy, intellectual & imperial man, fits ri
Tommy Clark
Nov 25, 2020 rated it liked it
A beautifully poetic account by a British diplomat living and working in Cyprus during the rise of EOKA attacks in the name of enosis, which of course eventually lead to civil war on the island.

It's wonderfully written, especially when talking about the beauty of the island. Politically, the authors attitude provides a telling illustration of the typical attitude of the British at the time, which makes you think about how that could have played in to the troubles.

The book does also do a good job
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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! ...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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