Corelli's Mandolin (de Bernieres)

Author Bio
Birth—December 8, 1954
Education—Bradfield College; Victoria University of
   Manchester; University of London
Awards—Commonwealth Writers Prize, 1994.

Louis de Bernieres is a British novelist most famous for his fourth novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. In 1993 de Bernières was selected as one of the "20 Best of Young British Novelists", part of a promotion in Granta magazine. Captain Corelli's Mandolin was published in the following year, winning the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book. It was also shortlisted for the 1994 Sunday Express Book of the Year. It has been translated into over 11 languages and is an international bestseller.

In 2008 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in the Arts by the De Montfort University in Leicester, which he had previously attended when it was known as Leicester Polytechnic.

De Bernières-Smart was born near Woolwich and grew up in Surrey, the first part of his surname being inherited from a French Huguenot forefather. He was educated at Bradfield College and joined the army when he was 18, but left after four months of service at Sandhurst. He attended the Victoria University of Manchester and the Institute of Education, University of London.

Before he began to write full-time he held a wide variety of jobs, including being a mechanic, a motorcycle messenger and an English teacher in Colombia. He now lives near Bungay in Suffolk with his partner, Cathy and two children, Robin and Sophie. De Bernières is an avid musician. He plays the flute, mandolin, clarinet and guitar, though considers himself an “enthusiastic but badly-educated and erratic” amateur. His literary work often references music and composers he admires, such as the guitar works of Villa-Lobos and Antonio Lauro in the Latin American trilogy, and the mandolin works of Vivaldi and Hummel in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

Latin American trilogy
It was his experiences in Colombia (as well as the influence of writer Gabriel García Márquez, describing himself as a "Marquez parasite") that, he says, profoundly influenced his first three novels, The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (1990), Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (1991) and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (1992).

Captain Corelli's Mandolin
De Bernieres' most famous book is his fourth, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, in which the eponymous hero is an Italian soldier who is part of the occupying force on a Greek island during the Second World War. In the US it was originally published as Corelli's Mandolin.

In 2001, the book was turned into a film. De Bernieres strongly disapproved of the film version, commenting, "It would be impossible for a parent to be happy about its baby's ears being put on backwards." He does however state that it has redeeming qualities, and particularly likes the soundtrack.

Since the release of the book and the movie, Cephalonia (the island on which the book is set) has become a major tourist destination; and as a result the tourist industry on the island has begun to capitalise on the book's name. Of this, de Bernieres said: "I was very displeased to see that a bar in Agia Efimia has abandoned its perfectly good Greek name and renamed itself Captain Corelli's, and I dread the idea that sooner or later there might be Captain Corelli Tours, or Pelagia Apartments."

Red Dog
His book Red Dog (2001) was inspired by a statue of a dog he saw during a visit to the Pilbara region of Western Australia and has been filmed in 2011.

Birds Without Wings
Set in Turkey this 2004 novel portrays the people in a small village toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Kemal Atatürk, and the outbreak of the First World War.

A Partisan's Daughter
His 7th novel, published in 2008 tells of the relationship between a young Yugoslavian woman and a middle-aged British man in the 1970s, set in London.

Published in 2009, Notwithstanding is a collection of short stories revolving around a fictional English village, Notwithstanding, and its eccentric inhabitants. Many of the stories were published separately earlier in de Bernieres's career and are based on the village where he grew up, Wormley, Surrey, and he muses whether this is, or is no longer, the rural idyll. The author reflects in the Afterword:

I realised that I had set so many of my novels and stories abroad, because custom had prevented me from seeing how exotic my own country is. Britain really is an immense lunatic asylum. That is one of the things that distinguishes us among the nations...We are rigid and formal in some ways, but we believe in the right to eccentricity, as long as the eccentricities are large enough...Woe betide you if you hold your knife incorrectly, but good luck to you if you wear a loincloth and live up a tree.

(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia.)

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