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The Durrells in Corfu, and the Boschetto they have taken over
I was asked whether there were any signs of the presence in Corfu of the Durrell family, so beloved of English mass culture.
And make no mistake, it wasn’t the high culture of Lawrence Durrell that made a generation of Britons fall in love with Corfu. It was Gerald Durrell‘s quirky middlebrow memoir of Corfu as a child, My Family and Other Animals. Which I did in high school, and has recently made it to TV.
I’m sure Lawrence is quite passé nowadays. But there is something unsettling to me about Gerald ending up bigger than Lawrence.
If I was more heavily invested into my Cypriot heritage, I would read Lawrence’s Bitter Lemons. It is about his time in Cyprus as it was rebelling against Britain. You might even think it a 25 years later sequel to My Family, and both his mum and Gerald turn up as visitors. But it is a darker work, and Lawrence is not yet ready to let go of colonialism.
The sad thing is, Lawrence went to Cyprus hoping to recapture the magic of his time in Corfu.
No, I haven’t read it, that’s just what I’ve heard and Wikipedia. But the notion of a more jaded, grayer sequel to My Family appeals to me
None of the family’s rental houses are open to the public. Lawrence’s White House, which he moved into with his wife, is open to the public, but he is not the draw card.
But fear not, The Durrell Spot, a little shop on the border of the Old and the New Town, will take care of all your Durrell needs.
I had the impression that the Durrells’ influence on contemporary Corfu was limited to The Durrell Spot and The White House. I was wrong: facing the Old Fortress a bit of the Spianada full of statues has been fenced off and designated the Boschetto. And latterly, as a city initiative to honour renowned philhellenes, and just maybe also to give British tourists a photo opportunity, it has been renamed the Durrell Boschetto.
Pictured: new sculptures of Lawrence and Gerald, justifying the renaming…
And the pre-existing statues in the Boschetto:
- Constantine Theotokis, who (again) I will talk about later.
- Lorenzo Mavilis, the best of Greece’s sonnet writers. Theotokis fell out with him just before Mavilis died, for not being socialist enough; finding that out got me quite annoyed. Though it’s hardly the first time a socialist/communist put ideology in front of friendship.
And the statue which is why the statue park exists at all, and clearly the first one here, as the surrounding colonnade gives away,
- Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford, founder of the Ionian Academy, the first modern Greek institution of higher learning. (If the name looks familiar: he was the son of the Prime Minister who lost the American colonies in the American Revolutionary War.)