On Islands: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

I wanted to continue on the theme of islands.

Image source: Pexels,com

I’ve just finished reading a novel very much steeped in history: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, set on the island of Cephalonia, Greece in WWII and sweeps all the way to about 30-40 years ago.

The film and the book are about as similar as volcanic pumice and Greek yoghurt. The author Louis de Bernières was famously unhappy about this, so far as to say in an interview, that he felt like a parent whose baby had had its ears put on backwards. This is a tale probably nearly as old as page-to-stage itself.

Anyway, de Bernières also said:

“History ought to be made up of the stories of ordinary people only.”

I thinks he means this in contrast to, e.g. the dictators and megalomaniacs who started wars and ruined the lives of such ordinary people but still somehow awarded a place in history books. Not fair.

The novel reflects his attitude, as the narrative changes around a lot between chapters – first person/third person, different POVs. It actually brings to mind of what you would discover if you pilfered a historian’s scrapbook dedicated to documenting the lives of ordinary Greek villagers and occupying Italian soldiers at this time. You get to meet Pelagia, her father, Captain Corelli and all their friends.

… The way I’ve described it sounds fun and light to read, but it also has quite heavy content, because of war and all its crimes which are quite viscerally depicted.

The language is sophisticated and very good.

Important takeaways:

• At this time it was the Greeks vs the Italians (so of course, this sets up a backdrop that allows a Romeo & Juliet kind of relationship).

• there was a massive earthquake in Greece in 1953, aka The Great Kefalonia earthquake, which killed between 400 and 800 people.

• a mandolin can be played with violin music, and a mandola can be played reading viola music.

• One account of Pelagia’s father adopting one named Psipsina, I learnt that pine martens exist, and they are cute.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Some haunting quotes:

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I … had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found we were one tree and not two.”

“He had struggled for a better world, and wrecked it.”

“Life is… a brief flame in a bowl of oil between one darkness and another one that ends it.”

More personal updates:

1. We’ve left Kangaroo Island as it was a brief visit, and are back in the Real World. I may post more photos later.

2. I have been ruminating, like a lot, about what I’m doing with my life. This is reflecting on aspirations that I had before I started being interested in Archaeology. Just for fun, things I’ve wanted to be have included: a lawyer, a pirate (thanks to Disney’s POTC series), a doctor, a writer, an illustrator. I am assessing closely what I will regret not trying for in later years, and what the right reasons are for pursuing anything, and what those reasons might mean for me.

How is everyone? Anyone seen this film/read this book; visited Greece/an island; had identity questions/career conundrums?


14 thoughts on “On Islands: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

  1. Read the book, seen the film, and agree with de Bernieres but then again few good, literary books transfer well to the screen as the nuances in words cannot adequately be shown in film. I also love Greece, particularly Crete, for both its ancient and it’s 20th century history and the pride each Cretan feels in his identity. I’ve also changed career 3 times (finally becoming a writer but not the one I intended!) and if I’ve learned one thing in life it is that one should never regret a decision. Think about it carefully, make the best decision for you, and then get on with it, right or wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true, also I guess they have to cram everything in 2 hours and also be able to pay famous people so they have to pander to the masses a little with ingredients (plot changes) that sell. The history of Crete alone on Wiki looks wondrous!

      3-fold changes sound like true life adventures. Thank you for your perspective and experience 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Seen the film but cannot compare as I have not read the book. Island life is good but can lead to an insular outlook on the world (not necessarily a bad thing). Make a rule NOW. Regret nothing – regret is a totally wasted emotion. You cannot change something you’ve done and regret will alter nothing. Remember always that words said cannot be taken back and actions cannot be undone.
    You can, however, change the course of your life many times if you wish. Whatever you choose, set the goal, do your best to achieve it, and always be nice to people, even if they are not nice to you. Never be afraid to ask for help, or say you don’t know. Good luck, whatever you choose!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a conundrum indeed. As a thought experiment – the compromise seems to be working a minor % of those ten, and moving to an island with an excellent exchange rate and enjoying (spending) every last cent. I’d vote for Bali.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Never read the book but I am interested. I love the idea of an epistolary novel. One of my favorites is the Moonstone by Wilkie Collins which is written in a similar format. I also think that normal people need to have a place in history considering that those are the ones who get affected the most in its frequent storms. Hopefully, I can read the books as soon as I can.

    Also, looking forward to more of your pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Like me, you may need to add a follow or subscribe button/widget. I have signed up to follow you by checking the notify me of new posts box. Ain’t WP grand?
    My interest in your site grows out of two things. (1) My daughter has a master’s degree in archaeology and (2) Australia is the only foreign (to me) place to visit on my bucket list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the heads up and your comment and for following! I will look at the button/widget. That’s great, your daughter must have a lot of fascinating stories. Hope you get to come to Australia some day!

      Liked by 1 person

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