Captain Corelli`s Mandolin


Captain Corelli`s Mandolin
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is
posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying
forces. Ostracised at first, he proves in time to be peace-loving,
humorous – and a consummate musician.
A burgeoning love with the local doctor’s daughter, whose
letters to her fiancé – and members of the underground – go
unanswered, seems inevitable. But can it survive as a war of bestial
savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and
‘This novel will give pleasure to all sorts of readers’
A. S. Byatt
Consider the different kinds of love present in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Can there ever be morality within the battle lines of war? Discuss with reference to the atrocities committed
throughout the novel.
Of what significance are the names Pelagia, Antonio Corelli, Mandras, Hector and Günter Weber? Discuss the
nature of allusion in the novel.
Look at the structure of the novel’s narrative – notice how it is like a pyramid, with many characters and storylines
at the beginning but only a few at the end. Why has de Bernières chosen this arrangement?
In 2001 a film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was released starring Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz. When watching
it, note the alterations made to the plot. Do they make the story ultimately more satisfying, as the producers
intended? How appropriately do you think the film was cast?
Consider the events leading to Pelagia and Captain Corelli falling in love. Does Corelli woo Pelagia by artful intent
or does their relationship come about through ‘a fortunate accident’? Would Pelagia agree with her father’s definition
of love?
How can you summarise Carlo’s and Francesco’s feelings towards the war they are fighting and the leader they
are fighting for. Do they match the author’s views? Think about the way ’Il Duce’ is portrayed in the novel. How
accountable are leaders for the lives of their men, and to what extent should soldiers have to obey orders they
disagree with?
Do you find de Bernières’ use of national stereotypes effective? In what way is Weber a ‘Good Nazi’? To what degree
can Dr lannis be seen as the contemporary personification of Greece, and Corelli as the spirit of Italy? Can they
be this and yet also be three-dimensional characters in their own right? How effectively does de Bernières rewrite
history? Is he impartial?
In what way is the Cephallonians’ view of themselves shaped by their sense of the island’s past? How do the
inhabitants view their occupiers and conquerors? Is it fair to suggest that their history colours their attitudes?
In the novel, Corelli sometimes ‘plays the fool.’ How do such episodes influence our opinion of him? Are we being
encouraged to love him or mock him?
What is the effect of introducing Bunny Warren at this late stage in the story? Think about the reactions of the
islanders to his arrival. How useful is he as a tool for comic/satiric relief? Consider how this strand of humour
differs from other kinds throughout the novel. Discuss de Bernières’ skills as a comic writer, both generally and with
specific reference to his treatment of this character.
Think about the time span of the novel. The author focuses mainly on the war years, and depicts the development
of the central love affair in great detail, then skips several decades. How satisfying an approach is this? What do you
make of the ending?
How significant is Pelagia’s march? Think about the instances where the characters break into song, for example the
Italian soldiers on their way to execution. How well does music play within the narrative?
De Bernières has commented that ‘the English language is so ought to exploit it’. Discuss the ways in
which the author plays with language throughout the novel.
In what way are the novel’s characters directly or indirectly compared to figures from Greek mythology? Among the
Cephallonians, what modern manifestations do we find of Apollo, Aphrodite, Penelope, Odysseus, Hercules and
other mythological figures?
‘A wonderful epic novel’ The Times
‘Louis de Bernieres is in the direct line that runs through Dickens and Evelyn Waugh... he has only to look into his
world, one senses, for it to rush into reality, colours and touch and taste’ Evening Standard
‘An emotional, funny, stunning novel which swings with wide smoothness between joy and bleakness, personal lives
and history... it’s lyrical and angry, satirical and earnest’ Observer
‘A master of haunted realism. His best novel yet. He deals with death and love and tragedy...This is a novel to be
prized’ Daily Mail
‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a wonderful, hypnotic novel of fabulous scope and tremendous, iridescent charm –
and you can quote me.’ Joseph Heller
‘A true diamond of a novel, glinting with comedy and tragedy’ Daily Mail
Louis de Bernières was born in London in 1954. After graduating in Philosophy from the Victoria University
of Manchester, he took a postgraduate certificate in Education at Leicester Polytechnic and passed his MA, with
distinction, at the University of London. He has held various jobs: landscape gardener, mechanic, officer cadet at
Sandhurst and schoolteacher in both Colombia and England.
De Bernières’ first novel, The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, was published in 1990 and won the
Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book Eurasia Region in 1991. The next year, his second book, Señor
Vivo and the Coca Lord, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book Eurasia Region. His third book, The
Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman, was published in 1992. These works were influenced by de Bernières’
experiences in Colombia and together make up his ‘Latin American trilogy’.
In 1993 de Bernières was selected by Granta magazine as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists. His next
book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was published the following year. This novel became a phenomenal best-seller
largely due to word-of-mouth recommendations. It went on to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book
in 1995 and has now been translated into twenty-six languages. A major film based on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
was released in 2001. De Bernières has also written a play, Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World (2001), and a
novella, Red Dog (2001). His most recent novel is A Partisan’s Daughter (2008).
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts
Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World
Red Dog
Birds Without WIngs
A Partisan’s Daughter
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal
The Maze by Panos Karnezis
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
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