Louis de Bernières is best known for his fourth book, Corelli’s Mandolin, (1993) which was made into a film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. His book, Nothwithstanding: Stories from an English Village (2009), is based on his childhood village, Hambledon in Surrey.

Louis Henry Piers de Bernière-Smart was born in 1954 to army parents, Piers Alexander Bernière-Smart and his wife Jean. His surname, Bernière, comes from French Huguenot forefathers. His great-grandmother, Frances Charlotte Josephine de Bernière, was born in Nancy, France, daughter of Colonel Henry de Bernière by Elizabeth Longley, sister to the Most Revd. Dr. Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury. Colonel Henry was in His Majesty’s Service in the 9th Foot. He was shipwrecked off the coast of France and taken prisoner of war in 1805, and died in 1813 at Nancy, leaving his widow and three female children in distressed circumstances, who were awarded an annual compassionate allowance of £150. In 1834 Frances de Bernière married by licence, Revd. Newton Smart (1799-1879) of Alderbury, Wiltshire, and was his second wife. The Smart family can be traced back to Northumberland, and Louis has taken the pseudonym, Bernières, using Bernière and ‘s’ from Smart.

As a child he lived in Hambledon, his parents lived there until 1989 at Aran Lodge. He remembers working at Munstead Stud Farm, and a story in Notwithstanding is woven around the potting shed on the estate. His love of music drew him to visit Palmers Music Shop in Godalming High Street where he bought his first classical guitar, and Record Corner in Pound Lane, both mentioned in his book. He has been a professional musician for about six years.

His father wrote poetry, as Piers Alexander, and this influenced him. Louis was educated at Bradfield College (1968-1972) and excelling at English won the Denning prize for original English writing. He won an army scholarship, to Sandhurst, where he was to take a place in his father’s old regiment, but at 18 decided the army life was not for him and left four months later. He graduated in philosophy from the Victoria University of Manchester, took a postgraduate certificate in education at Leicester Polytechnic, and passed his MA, with distinction, at the University of London. He has tried his hand at various jobs, motorcycle messenger, landscape gardener, and mechanic.

As an English teacher in British Columbia he was inspired to write The World of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (1990) followed by other novels; Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (1991), The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (1992). He wrote, Red Dog (2002), Birds Without Wings (2004), and A Partisan’s Daughter (2008). In 2010 Red Dog was made into a film. He has published his first collection of poems, Alexandria (2013). His first two parts of his trilogy, The Dust That Falls From Dreams (2015) and So Much Life Left Over (2018) have been published.

His book Notwithstanding (2009) is of stories based on Hambledon characters with fictitious names, dedicated in the afterword, many remembered by villagers today. The physical countryside, church and shop are all mentioned as is his family home in the chapter, ‘This Beautiful House’.

Godalming Museum © 2018