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Captain Corellis Mandolin Chapter Summaries

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					                  Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Chapter Summaries


69 Bean by Bean the Sack Fills
        After the relatively detailed narrative of the earthquake, its aftermath, and the
rewriting of the history in the pevious four chapters, the final five seem to try to encompass
the passing of a great span of time. Chapter 69, with its title appropriately symbolizing the
accumulation of events throughout a lifetime, begins this trend.
        First there is the string of postcards that Pelagia begins to receive from all over the
world - „From London: “Mad people, terrible fog”...From Madrid: “Too hot. Everyone
asleep”...From Calcutta: “Burried in dust. Abysmal diarrhoea”.‟ - which perplex but at the
same time please her. Then there is the courtship of Antonia and Alexi, a radical communist
lawyer. Despite Pelagia dissapproving of the relationship outright, we suddenly and
comically jump to their wedding day. After that we learn of Drosoula setting up a taverna by
the quay and of the beginning of the tourist invasion of Cephallonia, many of the visitors
taking a liking to the exotic Drosoula and the eccentric service of her taverna.
        Suddenly we jump back to the life of Pelagia, Antonia, and Alexi, with time passing
swiftly: „[Pelagia] smiled when Antonia cried in 1964 over the death of King Paul,...in 1967
Alexi was...locked up by the Colonels, and again in 1973...Later on...‟ Antonia by now has
become very active in left-wing politics, having been taught to think by Pelagia. And,
suddenly again, there is the understated and quiet death of Drosoula due to which Pelagia
takes over the taverna, the realization by Alexi that somehow he has stopped being a
communist, and (after much insistence by Pelagia) the birth of Antonia and Alexi‟s first
child, who in a de facto manner receives the name of Iannis. Alexi capitalistically begins to
invest and expand his resources and with Pelagia modernizes the taverna, which has begun to
attract more tourists.


70 Excavation
        This chapter starts off in the same way, with life-sweeping scope. But although five
years of Iannis‟ childhood roll by within the first two pages, we are not deprived of the
charming details typical of the rest of the book. The little Iannis, we learn, spends most of
early childhood enchanting tourists in „Grandma‟ Pelagia‟s taverna. Meanwhile, the capitalist
exploits of his father and mother continue, the latter having opened up a series of tacky but
successful souvenir shops throughout the island that contain items such as „porcelain
dolphins,...T-shirts which proclaimed variations on the message of “My Dad Went To
Greece, And All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt”,...and condoms‟, all comically described by
de Bernières.
         When Iannis is ten, Pelagia hires for the taverna a charismatic bozouki player named
Spiridon whom the little boy idolizes for his musical talent and his ability to impress the
opposite sex. Iannis is in fact quite impressionable, as is shown by his admiration for the
Greek “Don Juans” who spend their days „entertaining‟ young foreign girls who come to the
island in search of romance. So he resolves to be just like Spiridon, starting by learning to
play bozouki. He is disappointed when his hero tells him that he is too young, but takes heart
again at the idea of learning the mandolin instead. His parents don‟t take much notice of this
interest, so Pelagia tells him that he may look for Corelli‟s mandolin in the ruins of the old
house.
         This is where the plot slows down and gets very specific, focusing for the second half
of the chapter exclusively on the „excavation‟ undertaken by Iannis and Spiridon. The place
is desolate, filled with stony remains and the rubbish of tourists, but they get to work and by
the next day have cleared away the junk and exposed the trapdoor of the cachette. They have
also found trinkets of a life that no longer exists - a jar full of snails, The Complete and
Concise Home Doctor, the picture of Günter Weber and Captain Corelli drunk on the beach,
and other odds and ends. Frustratingly, though, the cachette won‟t open. It is a lucky
coincidence that Velisarios arrives to leave a flower at Carlo Guercio‟s grave (it is here that
we learn it had been him all those years, paying his respects to the giant) and lifts the old
trapdoor for them, astonishing Spiridos with his colossal strength despite his 78 years.
         Finally, they find in the cachette the hidden treasures of the old house, perfectly
preserved: Günter‟s record-player, Pelagia‟s blanket, Mandras‟ knapsack and bandoliers, the
papers of Carlo and Dr. Iannis, and of course the mandolin Antonia, whose beauty captivates
the mind of Spiridos. But while he‟s going on about the instrument‟s perfection, the chapter
ends abruptly with Iannis accidentally firing an old rifle and sitting down to cry in shock. The
playfulness, the memories, the newfound details of a wonderful life are brought to a halt by
the tremendous crack of a gun, poignantly symbolizing the end of that previous life by
another violence long buried in the past.


71 Antonia Sings Again
         The collection of items recovered in the excavation turn out to stir Pelagia‟s
emotions deeply in this chapter: „As for Pelagia, Iannis had never seen her cry so much.
Grandmothers were sentimental creatures...but this crying for a week was more than he could
understand.‟ She goes through each special item in turn, remebering and crying for the
character from her old life that it represents. She mourns for her unfinished existence, and
Iannis is the one who consoles and comforts her, who listens to her as she narrates the story
of her life over and over again in a piecemeal fashion and with the help of the photo album.
For the reader this is especially touching because as the end of the book draws near, these
images and memories flood back into one‟s mind as if they were part of one‟s own life,
evoking an understood nostalgia. Velisarios lifting the mule, Kokolios and Stamatis
bickering, Alekos and his goats; the kaphenion, Psipsina, La Scala; „Papas‟ and Antonio; it is
all there. How appropriate, then, that at this point Iannis and Pelagia share a brief talk of
death.
         But the chapter quickly moves on to the title task at hand: the recommissioning of
Antonia. Some mandolin strings are bought by Pelagia (Iannis‟ parents are again in their own
world) to replace the ones left in Antonio‟s chest so long ago. Spiridos cleans, polishes, and
tunes the instrument, and then proceeds to teach the boy everything there is to know about
playing and caring for it, not forgetting to explain to him the cosmic link between a musician
and his tool: „...Spiro told him seriously that he was holding in his hands the most precious
thing he would ever own, and it awoke in him a sense of awe and reverence that had never
struck him in church...‟
         To finish off, the chapter leaves somewhat of a loose end in time, saying that Iannis
became disillusioned with girls (even though he had wanted to learn music to impress them)
by the start of his adolescence, and then talking of some future love he would encounter at
seventeen, a girl „who had stopped nearby to listen when he was making Antonia sing.‟ But
no more is said of this, and we are left to wonder at the continuation of the eternal circle
where the love story - not just history - repeats itself.


72 An Unexpected Lesson
         Only three pages constitute this chapter, but it provides the enormous twist which
changes and fuels the rest of the story. At the ruins of the old house in October 1993, Iannis
is practicing on his mandolin (he is there because Pelagia cries too much at the sound of it),
trying to improve his tremolo technique, when he is startled by an old man who speaks Greek
in a strange accent. The happy-looking man comments on an error Iannis is making - not with
the tremolo, but with the positioning of his fingers. He teaches him the correct way of using
his fingers on the fretboard and it is during this brief tutorial that the man reveals his identity
by mentioning the flaw of a round-backed mandolin and saying „...I‟ve often thought of
getting a Portugese one with a flat back.‟ The reader who knows this comment all too well
from countless pages before knows that this man is none other than Captain Antonio Corelli.
         Iannis, still unaware of who the old man is but having discovered that he is a
professional mandolinist, asks him to play something on the instrument. Antonio begins to do
so, but does not get very far before he realizes what he‟s playing on: „ “Madonna Maria, it‟s
Antonia.” ‟, he exclaims in bewilderment. Some confusion ensues from the fact that both of
them know it‟s Antonia but neither of them know how the other has such “private”
knowledge. However, it doesn‟t take long for Antonio to put the pieces together and see that
the young boy is Pelagia‟s grandson. They exchange some information - about the four lost
strings, about the bones of Carlo - before Antonio carefully begins to ask about Pelagia and
Iannis‟ grandfather. Surpisedly, he discovers that Iannis has no grandfather. Antonio is filled
with nostalgia and decides to pay Pelagia a visit, but first he tells Iannis that he may keep the
mandolin.
        As they walk away, Iannis asks Antonio if he is „the ghost‟, reminding us (and
Corelli) of all those times Pelagia saw Antonio‟s figure in the old village.


73 Restitution
        The literary suspense is finally difused in the final chapter with the reunion of
Antonio and Pelagia. At first she is filled with uncontrollable rage at the fact that he‟s still
alive, that he betrayed her and did not come back. In the taverna she throws everything she
can get hold of at him. He tries to defend himself by saying that he had come back in 1946,
but saw the baby in her arms and assumed she was married, and that he still came back every
year to see her. Of course, the sting in Pelagia‟s heart does not easily accept this excuse,
saying that a decent man would have made sure that she was married and wouldn‟t have run
away when she came running to look for him: „ “You should have died,” she yelled, “and left
me with my fantasies. You never loved me.” ‟
        Her rage turns to sadness (“I feel like an unfinished poem”) as later on they talk of
their lives after they had parted ways: of their shame of being Greek and Italian after the war;
of Antonio‟s music career; of the changes in Cephallonia; of the earthquake and Antonio
coming to help as an Italian fireman and seeing the grave of Carlo open and close; of little
thigns in the past; of aging. Back at the taverna Antonio reads Carlo‟s papers and has trouble
getting over the initial shock, almost wishing he had not found out. He changes the subject to
Günter and his fear of Corelli when the latter tracked him down, and they talk of the Germans
and the fact that everyone must apologize for the past, and Antonio apologizes (though
Pelagia ignores that).
        At some point Spiridos is mentioned and Antonio reveals to have known and played
with him. The conversation turns light, talking of Iannis and his new affection for the
mandolin, and again of Antonio‟s musical life and fame. Then Antonio hints that he wants to
retire and buy Pelagia‟s old house, a proposition which she hollowly rejects in an attempt to
preserve her bitterness. He leaves, promising to return the next day with what he first calls a
present and then a debt. But before leaving he gives her a personal stereo and a cassette,
which in due time she plays. It seems to her to be a musical representation of his time in
Greece; the earthquake, the massacres, the snails, “Pelagia‟s March”.
        The following evening Antonio returns with a goat in keeping with the promise he
made her half a century earlier to replace the goat the occupying soldiers had taken from her.
They name it Restitution. Again he leaves with the promise of another surprise the next day.
And indeed, Pelagia is quite surprised when he shows up at her door on a motorcycle with the
idea of going to find Casa Nostra, that faint and beautiful memory. As usual, she refuses, but
Antonio has not lost the ability to charm and coax her. The story ends with them riding along
the stony roads of the island just as they had before, right down to her terrible fear of an
accident. They pass a moped with three young and beautiful girls in the prime of life, riding
in the breeze as symbols of hope and idealism and a life that the captain and the doctor‟s
daughter should have shared. But the eternal circle ensues…

				
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