Non fiction

Review: The Cyprus Problem by James Ker-Lindsay


Hi everyone!

It’s finally time for my review of the first non-fiction book I haveread this year: The Cyprus Problem: What everyone needs to know by James Ker-Lindsay. I really liked this book, and this has nothing to do with the fact that it was offered to me by my boyfriend, I promise! To tell you the full story of how I came to read this book, my boyfriend is Cypriot and he wanted me to learn a bit about the history of his country – hence this book. So yes, this is because my boyfriend is from Cyprus that I read this book and am generally interested in anything related to Cyprus, of course. But at the same time, Cyprus’s history is very complicated and, probably because it is so complicated, it is also truly fascinating. Therefore, even if you have not heard much about Cyprus and do not really care about this country, I would advise you to read this book if you have an interest for geopolitics and current affairs, and some historic topics such as colonisation, for instance.

I’m going to give you a very brief and incomplete summary of the situation of the country so that you’ll understand better the topic of this book before telling you what I thought of it. Cyprus is a small Mediterranean island located below Turkey, just opposite Lebanon (but you probably already know that, don’t you?). It has been inhabited by two different ethnic groups for centuries: the Greek Cypriots, who arrived on the island between thirty-five hundred and four thousand years ago, and the Turkish Cypriots, who is a much more recent community who arrived on the island in 1571. The country has been divided since 1974, when the Turkish army invaded it. Since then, The Turkish Cypriots live in the North of the country and the Greek Cypriots south of the Green Line, where many Greek Cypriots went to take refuge after the invasion. Many efforts have been led to reunite the island in the last decades, but a reunification still seems to be quite unlikely to happen in the future, unfortunately.

This book is an excellent introduction to the Cypriot history as a whole and to the geopolitical crisis that the country has experienced over the last sixty years, of course. It is short and goes straight to the point but it also explains very well all the historical events and social aspects that led to the current situation. This is a very extensive insight of the island’s history, political and economic situation. The history of this country is of course very important to understand the current division, and Ker-Lindsay shows it very well. Interestingly enough, the country had never really known independence until 1960. Having always been regarded as a strategic territory, the island had always been under the rule of different conquerors, from the Persians to the British Empire in the 20th century. The short period of independence experienced by the country from 1960 to 1974 was marked by resentment and, eventually, many troubles, until the Turkish Invasion. Since then, the United Nations and other organizations and even countries such as the United States have tried to broker a settlement, but their numerous attempts have been unsuccessful.

As I was saying, all the events and socio-political aspects that have led to the division of the island are extremely well-explained and summarized. However, I found that the part of the book explaining the different attempts to broke a settlement until now was a bit too long. The author shows very well but with too much insistence, according to my taste, the irresolvable aspect of this situation by describing with quite a few details the various failures to find a settlement. I would have preferred this part to be shorter and more details to be given on this historical background part, for instance. As for the last part of the book, it was hugely interesting, showing the key issues faced by the country to find a settlement (territory issues, political structure at the conclusion of the reunification etc.) and the different solutions that could be potentially found by the governments.

One last thing that I really enjoyed about this book is that it was obviously written by a specialist. James Ker-Lindsay is a renowned academic who teaches at the London School of Economics and who has already written several books about Cyprus. I found him very objective on his subject and that was really appreciable. We shouldn’t forget that this book is about a contemporary and very delicate situation that still divide people (not only Cypriots and other people such as Turks, but also historians and researchers) and that the terminology used to talk about a particular issue does matter. This is why James Ker-Lindsay chooses carefully his words and always explains why he chose a particular term to refer to an event or a group of people, for instance.

I will stop here and hope that this review made you feel like checking this book out or, at least, aroused your interest in the “Cyprus problem”. Please let me know if you have any historical or economic/current affairs non-fiction book to recommend to me. Have a wonderful evening!

The Cyprus Problem, What everyone needs to know by James Ker-Lindsay. Published by Oxford University Press (2011)

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