De Bernieres takes revenge for review

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The Independent Online
AS LITERARY literary spats go, this is one of the more unlikely. Louis de Bernieres, author of best-seller Captain Corelli's Mandolin, has reacted furiously to a bad review in the Morning Star.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin has sold over 1m copies. The circulation of the Morning Star is around 5,000. Thousands will be taking Captain Corelli's Mandolin on their summer holidays. Airport sales of the traditionally communist-leaning Morning Star will be less brisk. Many will be surprised to know it still exists.

But the author takes it very seriously indeed. Mr de Bernieres, praised by literary critics for his "elegant Latinate constructions" has written to the Morning Star a letter replete with constructions of a less elegant kind. "How long are you people going to sit in the dark in an air-pocket, wanking each other off?" he inquires.

His letter, published under the headline: "Literary gent tosses off criticism", continues: "Your ship has sunk, brothers. It was historically inevitable and just now the historical conditions have been fulfilled. Goodbye to the biggest failure and disappointment since the non-return of Christ."

What prompted a normally mild-mannered author to throw a wobbly was a review earlier this month headed "The poison of Louis de Bernieres", published to coincide with this summer's holiday season.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which is about to be made into a film by Roger Michel, director of Notting Hill, is the story of an affair between the daughter of a patriotic Cephalonian doctor and a captain in the Italian occupation army. Alongside is an examination of the role of the Greek communists who led the wartime resistance against the Italians and Germans and later fought British and American-backed forces in the civil war.

But Mr de Bernieres' view of history is not the Morning Star's. The review's writer, Andrew Murray, former TGWU communications head, accuses the author of being an "apologist for the excesses of the right in Greece", trying to "portray the Greek dictator Metaxas in a sympathetic light", painting the Greek communists as "dehumanised sadists" and, not least, of presenting the "Italian fascist army - the force which exterminated one third of the population of Libya, to name but one of its crimes - as a collection of aimiable buffoons".

Mr de Bernieres said he was "delighted to receive a hostile notice from your paper" and was writing to "thank you for this indirect vindication". John Haylett, editor of the Morning Star, called him a "spoiled brat who doesn't like having his mistakes and prejudices exposed".