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?