Friday, October 19, 2012

My favourite books: The Latin Trilogy - Louis de Bernières

At college and university, if anyone asked me what my favourite book was I would say that it was Louis de Bernières' Latin Trilogy. I'm not sure I could still say the same but then, in my formative years, they were totally my Desert Island books and I will always think Louis de Bernières is a stunning writer.

I still carefully keep my battered, taped up, page wrinkled copies and occasionally read one or the other, just for the pleasure of jumping back into the familiar world I loved so much. I've read them all countless times - I'm not sure I could explain the plots but the atmosphere lingers in my mind. I remember in snatches the characters and stories, just like memories of people I've known or situations I've really been in. The trilogy froths with South American culture, drug wars, lust, whoring, hilarity, revenge, magic, incredible characters and the quick beauty of the mundane. Horrific and extremely difficult to read episodes of brutal torture are never far behind a fateful love story or good deed - like life they are full of moments of huge impact and beauty as well as depression, disaster, illness and death.

They helped give me an appreciation for reality, reinforcing the echo of a memory I have from school that has stuck with me. Many unfortunate things had befallen several pupils in my form all at once. Two people had broken their legs, someone lost their father to a sudden heart attack, one got hit by a car and was injured. I went home and told my parents, commenting on what a bad time everyone was having in my form particularly. My parents told me that it wasn't strange, it was just life in which bad stuff happens a lot and you must learn how to deal with it. I think that was the first time I really appreciated that how you absorb and cope with situations has more to do with how badly or well you react than the situation itself.

These three books were beside me in parallel to my discovering the real world with all its myriad disappointments, banality and drama, and will always hold a very special place in my heart.

One of my Things To Do Before I Die was to go and see Louis de Bernières play the mandolin in the musical group he was in for a while, the Antonius Players.

Unfortunately this will never occur - he is no longer a part of that ensemble, sniff.

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