Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

"I Love Cyprus but England Is My Home" - Eve Makis' Eat Drink and Be Married

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

"I Love Cyprus but England Is My Home" - Eve Makis' Eat Drink and Be Married

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

IN HER FIRST NOVEL, Eat, Drink and Be Married (20 04), E ve Makis explores the lives and mores of an Anglo-Cypriot family in Nottingham at the end of the twentieth century. In many respects this is a typical coming-of-age novel told from the perspective of a young Greek-Cypriot woman caught in-between two cultures, the one "I hail from" and the one that "I was brought up in,"1 and can thus be read alongside first novels such as Lara by Bernardine Evaristo, Anita and Me by Meera Syal, and Every Light in the House Burning by Andrea Levy.

In the light of the lively literary production by members of other immigrant communities in Britain, Cypriot voices have to date been few and far between, and it is thanks to Eve Makis that Cyprus and its specific diasporic narrative has finally been placed firmly on the literary map. As the only fulllength novel describing the Cypriot diaspora experience in Britain, Eat Drink and Be Married can. almost inevitably only be received as a novel that speaks as 'representative' of that experience. Despite the problems surrounding the issue of the 'burden of representation' that results for minoritarian writers who are faced with the expectation that they " ' speak for' the marginalized communities from which they come,"2 Eve Makis willingly and consciously wants to meet these expectations. As she explained in an interview,

I wanted to write something that honestly reflected the lives of GreekCypriots. [. . . ] It might not be everyone's personal experience, but 99 percent of the families I knew had left Cyprus in the 1960's, having lived through the time when it Anally became independent from colonial rule. I felt that it hadn't been dealt with before in mainstream literature."3

Deplorably, though, to my knowledge Eat, Drink and Be Married has not received any critical attention in academic circles so far, even after it was voted the Young Booksellers International Book of the Year 2005.4 Given Cyprus's colonial history and the large number of Cypriote who emigrated, mainly to the UK, it is indeed surprising that up to now there has been virtually no fictional representation ofthat particular experience. In academia, there has been equally little interest in exploring the admittedly modest production of Cypriot diaspora literature written in English.5 Even though John McLeod calls for a consideration of the differences between the fortunes of the diverse immigrant communities, he does not include Cypriote in his otherwise very useful observation:

The cultural representations [. . . ] refer [. . . ] to a number of historical trajectories that cannot be readily totalized into a common story of arrival and settlement. The factors which affected the arrival and fortunes of Caribbeans in London is not necessarily commensurate with that of South Africans, Australians or South Asians" [or Cypriote for that matter].6

Taking McLeod' s comment as a point of departure, in this essay I wish to explore the specificities of an Anglo-Cypriot diasporic voice and narrative in the context of British multicultural literary production addressing issues such as cultural and gender identity, hybridity, memory and the past, the politics of food, the representation of Britishness, and the relationship to the homeland.

Eat, Drink and Be Married is a first-person narrative told from the perspective of Anna, a young Anglo Greek-Cypriot woman, who, while dreaming of a university career, works long hours in her parents' fish and chip shop located on a British council estate in Nottingham. This dream, "Anna's dream" clashes with the "Anna dream" (18) held by Tina, Anna's mother, who cannot wait to see her daughter married to a "good boy" - meaning "anyone Greek, with a sensible haircut and a well-paid job" (219). While the promiscuous life-style of Anna's brother Andy is regarded as a "natural part of a young man's life before he settles down" (17), Anna is confined to a life of subservient domesticity. …

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