De Bernieres comes home with first novel set in UK

Tue Mar 4, 2008 1:06pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Louis de Bernieres has always considered himself a foreign writer, so setting his latest novel in native Britain is something of a homecoming.

The 53-year-old launched his writing career in the early 1990s with a trilogy about Latin America and since then his stories have taken him to Greece ("Captain Corelli's Mandolin"), the Ottoman Empire ("Birds Without Wings") and beyond.

Now "A Partisan's Daughter" centers around two characters in London -- Rosa, a Yugoslav illegal immigrant and ex-prostitute whose stories of Balkans life and adventures across Europe beguile Chris, a middle-aged salesman in a loveless marriage.

There is also "Bob Dylan Upstairs," a young man living in Rosa's building who de Bernieres modeled on himself in his early 20s. In fact, the whole novel is based on fact.

"I shared exactly that house with exactly that woman, who used to tell me all of her stories," de Bernieres said.

"It wasn't for many years that I started to doubt whether any of them were true or not, the doubts sown in my mind by my editor who didn't believe them," he added in an interview.

The author altered what he heard and recorded for Roza's tales of childhood in Yugoslavia, a father who fought with the partisan rebels under Tito during World War Two, her travels to Britain and life in the sex trade.

Neither Chris nor the reader ever finds out if Roza is telling the truth, but de Bernieres believes it does not matter.   Continued...

<p>British author Louis de Bernieres speaks during an interview with Reuters in central London March 3, 2008. De Bernieres has always considered himself a foreign writer, so his latest novel "A Partisan's Daughter", the first he has set in native Britain, is something of a homecoming. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>