Victoria Hislop: ‘The Island’ Author Hurts Cyprus


Frustration is spread in Cyprus for the highly anticipated new book on the occupied city of Famagusta, as British writer Victoria Hislop “whitewashes” the Turkish intruders, in what was originally presented as a novel that would spread the word of the continuing drama of the Cypriot city – which remains a ghost town since August 1974 – to the whole world.

Last October, in fact, the occupied city’s mayor, Alexis Galanos, honored at a special event in Nicosia, supported the British author, stressing that “by itself, the title of the book (”The Sunrise”) gives hope to Famagustians that the desire for return will once be realized.” On her behalf, Hislop said at the time that the aim of her latest novel was to write the truth, noting that walking the deserted streets of the abandoned and looted by the Turks city, she saw the ruined houses and memories of people: “Just as I had seen through the ruins of Spinalonga, where lepers lived the history of their souls. I imagined their lives,” she added, referring to her best-selling novel “The Island.”

However, the narratives of Hislop’s heroes caused various reactions in Cyprus and many directly claim that the victim and abuser are equated, while the Turkish invaders are being embellished. Former Education Minister Claire Aggelidou noted that there is no reference to the rich cultural past of the city in the book, which is inseparably connected with its timeless Greek character. Instead, solely the opulence of the early ’70s is presented. “The distinction made by Mrs. Hislop in favor of the Turkish-Cypriots is evident in a scholar, who, despite the benevolent mood, cannot point out the slippages in the text. Not talking about the plight of missing persons, prisoners of war, those who were shot by TMT and we are still burying them, suffering the pain every day until today, 40 years after,” Aggelidou underlined, concluding that in the novel, “the Greek-Cypriot is presented as a villain, exploiter, jobber and thief, while a Turkish-Cypriot as selfless, compassionate and altruistic. Is this not politics?”

In a past interview, regarding “The Sunrise,” when asked if she knew about the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, Hislop admitted that while it sounds “incredibly naive, she could not remember.” In 1974, at the age of 14, she remembers reading about Cyprus, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. “I remember seeing the name of Kissinger, who was involved in both issues, and the look on his face, for some reason, reminded me of a cartoon figure… I didn’t like many things: Makarios was also involved in politics and the UK was also involved… I never heard about Cyprus again,” she added then.