Novelist Louis de Bernières was born in London in 1954. He joined the army at 18 but left after spending four months at Sandhurst. After graduating from the Victoria University of Manchester, he took a postgraduate certificate in Education at Leicester Polytechnic and obtained his MA at the University of London.
Before writing full-time, he held many varied jobs including landscape gardener, motorcycle messenger and car mechanic. He also taught English in Colombia, an experience which determined the style and setting of 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), each of which was heavily influenced by South American literature, particularly ‘magic realism’.
In 1993, he was selected as one of the 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists 2’ promotion in Granta magazine. His fourth novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was published in the following year, winning the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Best Book). It was also shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year. Set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Second World War, the novel tells the story of a love affair between the daughter of a local doctor and an Italian soldier. It has become a worldwide bestseller and has now been translated into 11 languages. A film adaptation of the novel was released in 2001, and the novel has also been adapted for the stage. In 2001, Red Dog was published – a collection of stories inspired by a statue of a dog encountered on a trip to a writers’ festival in Australia in 1998.
He wrote the introduction to The Book of Job, one in a series of books reprinted from the Bible and published individually by Canongate Press in 1998 and his play, Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, set in South-West London, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1999, and published in 2001. He is also a regular contributor of short stories to various newspapers and magazines. His novel Birds Without Wings (2004) was shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book).