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Literature / Captain Corelli's Mandolin

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a 1994 novel by Louis de Bernières, set on the Greek island of Cephalonia. The occupation of the island by Italian troops during World War II forms a major part of the plot; the title character, Antonio Corelli, is an officer in the occupying forces.

Adapted into a 2001 film directed by John Madden, starring Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, John Hurt and Christian Bale.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Pelagia believes Corelli died in the massacre. Corelli returns to the island after the war, intending to tell her the truth, but gains a mistaken impression that she has moved on and decides to leave her be. They do not meet again until they are both very old.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Inverted, when a soldier deliberately holds one of his comrades behind him while they're under heavy fire. Played realistically, as the bullets do pass through Carlo and hit Corelli, but are slowed down enough that he's injured instead of killed.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Twofold. The Italian government ends up defecting to the Allied cause, causing their German allies to retaliate by going after Italian troops and subsequently massacring them.
  • Cool Old Guy: Velisarios. At his last appearance, he's 87 years old and still has strength men a quarter of his age could only dream of.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Following the Italian armistice, the Germans launch a surprise attack on the Italian garrison, complete with tank and air support. The surprised Italians are caught off-guard and massacred as a result.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Francesco dies in Carlo's arms.
  • False Flag Operation: Carlo and Francesco are sent to carry out such an operation. They are not told this is what they're doing and (as they realize when they figure out what they've actually done) they weren't supposed to survive it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Well, not kills, exactly, but the entire bittersweet ending could have been avoided with the right questions.
  • Preserve Your Gays: The gay character Carlo survives a horrific campaign in Albania while the heterosexual man whom Carlo secretly loves dies in his arms. Carlo does die late in the book, but it's hard to feel he's been singled out because the occasion is a massacre in which every single one of the other Italian soldiers except Corelli also dies.
  • Sabotutor/Trolling Translator: Corelli wants to get on with the people whose village his men are occupying, so he asks an Italian-speaking local to teach him how to greet the villagers in their own language. The "greeting" he gets taught is thoroughly impolite, and causes him to become even less popular.
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: Corelli does not take kindly to Italian soldiers abusing the Greek girls.
  • Translation Convention: Bunny Warren arrives in Cephalonia speaking only Ancient Greek, which is rendered in the novel as (unusually scrupulous) Chaucerian Middle English. As the novel proceeds, Bunny's speech becomes gradually more modern.
  • Unperson: Antonia is unofficially adopted by Pelagia after being abandoned at her house as an infant, and her birth is never officially registered. She's rather startled to discover, when trying to get a passport as an adult, that she doesn't legally exist.

The movie adaptation provides examples of:

  • Lighter and Softer: The ending is less bitter, more sweet. Corelli and Pelagia are reunited soon after the war ends, instead of years later.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Captain Günther Weber is brought in to help expedite the surrender when the leaders demand that they would only surrender to a German officer "of significant rank".
    Antonio: There are only 200 Germans on the island, and Captain Weber is the highest-ranking officer amongst them.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Just listen to Nicolas Cage's Italian accent.
  • Shot in the Ass: Mandras gets hit in the ass by rocks shot from a cannon. Leads to a funny moment with the village doctor.

Alternative Title(s): Captain Corellis Mandolin