Cypria: A Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean by Alex Christofi - review by Jason Goodwin

Jason Goodwin

Lessons from the Kafeneon

Cypria: A Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean

By

Bloomsbury Continuum 332pp £20
 

Alex Christofi’s Cypria is a remarkable book about a beautiful island that has lain in the path of every Mediterranean storm. The ancients coveted Cyprus for its copper and olive oil. The British, who relinquished Cyprus in 1960, retain their military bases there, along with their antennae in the mountains to eavesdrop on Russian vessels in the Black Sea.

Since it was first inhabited, Cyprus has been prey to greater powers beyond the sea. Everyone has had a crack at it: the Greeks, the Romans, the French, the Venetians, the Ottomans and the British, who gained control over it in 1878 and messed up their withdrawal so badly that, to this day, the island is divided by the so-called Green Line – named after the colour of the crayon a British officer used to demarcate the Greek and Turkish regions on his map.

The Russians never formally invaded the island, but they have long had close ties with the Greek Cypriot people, facilitated by a shared Orthodoxy. Until recently, Cyprus served as a laundromat for wealthy Russians, handling billions of roubles and offering an EU passport in exchange for investment. Today the marinas

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