10 questions with... Captain Corelli’s Mandolin writer Louis de Bernières
It sold more than 1.5 million copies and was adapted into a film starring Nicolas Cage, John Hurt and Penélope Cruz. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was written by the British writer Louis de Bernières in 1994 and set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Italian and German occupation of the Second World War.
A cast of 15 actors and singers will bring de Bernières’ beloved novel thrillingly to life at Birmingham REP.
It will capture vivid descriptions of village life and the epic sweep and shifting politics of war that featured in his bestselling novel and the smash hit Hollywood movie. The new production will run from May 29 to June 15. We caught up with de Bernières ahead of the show to ask him 10 Questions...
Your books require a lot of historical research. Is this a pain or a passion?
It’s not a passion, but I do love it. You are constantly learning things. I have recently been researching the Boer War and it is fascinating.
You are an accomplished musician. What kind of music floats your boat?
That changes all the time, but music is evocative. At the moment I am having a craze for playing flamenco [guitar]. I also love the flute. There is nothing like playing the flute to express what you feel in your spirit. It is a very versatile instrument. It is hard, for instance to make a banjo or mandolin sound melancholy – they sound relentlessly cheerful – but not so with the flute.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is an epic love story. Why do we never tire of love stories?
I can’t explain that any more than I can explain why we dance or paint – it’s all hopelessly irrational and pointless. But it is part of what we are.
You were a student of philosophy. What pearl of wisdom can you offer?
If you want to be happy, do what you are good at.
The most difficult thing in the world is…?
Keeping romantic love alive.
The most difficult job you have ever done?
You try being a landscape gardener in the middle of winter.
Stories provide glorious escapism. What is escapism for you?
I read in order to have adventures that I wouldn’t have otherwise. To escape from the horrendous boredom of listening to my own internal speech all the time I play music a lot, especially the guitar. It stills the tedious relentless babble of my mind. The Jehovah Witnesses came around recently and talked to me about eternal life. I said that I didn’t want to live forever; I couldn’t stand the tedium of listening to myself. They said that they saw my point.
Are you nervous about opening night of the new play version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin?
I expect there will be a moment of apprehension when I am wondering if the vision of the director is anything like mine. What I hope is that Mel [director and Olivier and Tony Award nominee Melly Still] will draw me into the narrative as if I hadn’t written it. The last script that I saw was very faithful to the book.
What are you working on now?
Part three of a trilogy of a family saga. It is the most difficult thing that I have ever done. There are so many characters to remember and to keep finding exciting things to happen to. It has got the makings of a TV series, I hope.
Did your family have a big influence on your career?
My father was the kind of man who could recite Shakespeare at the table. We were a literary family. My grandfather, half French and fluent in German, was someone I suspected was in training to be a spy. But he ended up losing two toes in a parachuting accident, which put an end to the spying career.