Louis de Bernières
|Louis de Bernières|
De Bernières at the 2006 Humber Mouth festival
8 December 1954 |
Louis de Bernières (born 8 December 1954) 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.
Louis H. P. de Bernières-Smart was born near Woolwich in London in 1954 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 the officer training course at Sandhurst. He next 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 in a large house.
In 2009 he separated from his partner, Cathy, who took custody of their children, Robin and Sophie. He had been spending much time away from his family touring. He subsequently attacked family lawyers as being too adversarial. Eventually, he gained equal custodial rights.
De Bernières is an avid musician. He plays the flute, mandolin, clarinet and guitar, although he considers himself an “enthusiastic but badly-educated and erratic” amateur. His literary work often references music and the 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 "Márquez 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 Bernières' 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 the Greek island of Cephalonia 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 Bernières 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 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 Bernières 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."
Birds Without Wings
Birds Without Wings (2004) is set in Turkey, and portrays the tragic fate of the diverse people in a small village, who belong to different language-speaking groups and religions, toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Kemal Atatürk, and the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War from the Turkish viewpoint. The book was shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book).
A Partisan's Daughter
A Partisan's Daughter (2008) tells of the relationship between a young Yugoslavian woman and a middle-aged British man in the 1970s, set in London.
Notwithstanding (2009) 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 Bernières's career. Notwithstanding is based on the village where he grew up, Wormley, Surrey, and he muses whether this is, or is no longer, the rural idyll. Some of the stories are autobiographical, such as "Silly Bugger 1" about a boy who brings up an abandoned rook, which becomes his companion, the rook sitting on his shoulder as he goes about his life – de Bernières is pictured on his website with a rook sitting on his shoulder. Notwithstanding is rich in local detail, containing references to the nearby villages and towns of Godalming, Chiddingfold, Hambledon and Haslemere, as well as to Waitrose, Scats, the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, the Merry Harriers pub and the "suicidal driving" of the nuns at St Dominic's School. De Bernières 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."
- The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (1990)
- Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (1991)
- The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (1992)
- Captain Corelli's Mandolin (1994), originally published as Corelli's Mandolin in the US
- Red Dog (2001)
- Birds Without Wings (2004)
- A Partisan's Daughter (2008)
- The Dust that Falls From Dreams (2015)
Short story collections
- Labels (Novella) (1993)
- Stupid Gringo (1997)
- Our Lady of Beauty (1998) 
- A Day out for Mehmet Erbil (1999)
- Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World (2001)
- Gunter Weber's Confession (2001)
- A Walberswick Goodnight Story (2006)
- Imagining Alexandria (2013)
- The Book of Job: An Introduction (1998)
- Granta's Best of the Young British Novelists: 1993
- The Penguin Readers' Group Website
- Random House: Captain Corelli's Mandolin
- At home with Louis de Bernières - Times Online
- Daily Mail
- about at louisdebernieres.co.uk
- Louis de Bernières, Music from the novels of Louis de Bernières (CD booklet; Colchester: Chandos, 1999), pp. 6-7
- The Bookbag
- Journal of the Short Story in English; 29 | Autumn 1997 http://jsse.revues.org/index121.html
- The Paris Review; Fall 1998. p. 67
- New Writing; 8, Volume 8. Vintage, 1999. p. 498; published separately by Secker & Warburg, 2004
- Tartarus Press, 2001
- Tartarus Press, 2006
- Edinburgh: Canongate, 1998. ISBN 0-86241-791-0
- ITV Local Anglia's interview with Louis de Bernières May 2008
- Louis de Bernières at British Council: Literature
- Louis de Bernieres' own web site
- At home with Louis de Bernieres interview with The Times.
- Louis de Bernières: 'Having a book made into a film is like losing your virginity' - Features, Books - The Independent