John Knittel, Cyprus wine from my cellar, J. Long Ltd, 1933.
“With our feet we stand on the ground, with our lungs we are already linked to the universe above us.”
“Return to primitive thought, to primitive things, to primitive life […] be of good cheer.”
John Knittel was born in India, the son of a Württemberg missionary, Hermann Wilhelm Knittel, who was in the service of the Baseler Mission, along with his wife Ana née Schultze. In 1895, the Knittels traveled with their children from India to Switzerland and settled in Basel. John Knittel studied at the Gymnasium am Münsterplatz and among his schoolmates was Carl Jacob Burckhardt. Afterwards he decided to enrol in a vocational school and eventually became an apprentice in a cotton textile factory owned by an uncle.
In 1908 John Knittel moved to London and worked in various professions such as a bank teller for Crédit Lyonnais, even as a projectionist in some theaters. In 1915, he met his future wife Frances White Mac Bridger.
A chance meeting with the English writer Robert Smythe Hichens in 1917, who prompted him to start writing in English, opened the writing doors for Knittel and in 1919, his first novel appeared: The Travels of Aaron West, which became a commercial success. In England, he became a member of P.E.N. Club.
In the following years, he took his family along on his wide travels to: Egypt, Algeria,Tunisia and Cyprus.
While in Cyprus he got inspired and wrote “Cyprus wine from my cellar”, a book written by Kinttel’s unique way by exhibiting more interest in the people, instead of only the land.
He drank Cypriot wine, visited the cabarets of the time, and mingled with the diverse communities that were spread all over the island. All in all, he paints a very realistic, though reminiscent, window of the Cyprus life in the 1930s: “And so I intend to take you with me to the Isle of Cyprus, you shall not merely be so used in antiquities and sight- seeing, you shall accompany me on a truly “privately” conducted tour.”
“I did not set myself any particular task when I made my mind to see Cyprus. […] It is he or she who interests me most of all, and I have found in flesh and blood all the mountains and desert places, that can be seen elsewhere.”
You can find this book, and many more, in the Research Centre of the CVAR.
The 'Book of the Month' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).