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Compton Mackenzie  The two Capri novels 


His life

Capri has always been one of the most charming islands of the world: many famous people were enchanted by it. The Scottish writer Compton Mackenzie was bound to this place like Axel Munthe, and spent there long periods of his life.
Mackenzie was born in West Hartlepool, Scotland, in 1883. Edward Compton, his father, was an actor. Son of art, he was soon attracted by literature and he decided to earn his day writing. He confirmed his intentions in 1911 with the publication of his first novel, Passionate Elopement. He reached the fame with Sinister Street, two years later. He became one of the most appreciated literary men of his time: Henry James and Scott Fitzgerald were fascinated by his style.
During the First World war he went to the front of Gallipoli and was a member of the English intelligence in Greece. The war experiences inspired him two memoires and the novel Extremes Meet (1928).
He went to Capri in 1913: he had previously seen some pictures about the island, so he wished to admire its beauties with his own eyes. He immediately decided to settle there with his wife Faith. They first stayed in Faraglioni Hotel, then they moved to Villa La Solitaria: the owner was a certain Celio.
In the island Mackenzie lived his most productive literary period. Two of his most famous novels were written in Capri: Vestal Fire (1927) and Extraordinary Women (1928). They both describe the pleasures and delights of a small community of foreigners, who lived in Capri and freely enjoyed their perversions.
A group of lesbians came to Capri in 1912 and Mackenzie was so charmed by them that they became the characters of his Extraordinary Women.
The writer had particular sex inclinations and maybe this fact was determined the failure of his marriages. He decided to divorce from Faith on Axel Munthe's suggestion. It was a right decision, in fact they became good friends.
Mackenzie wished to build his own villa near Ventroso (Capri) but a great misfortune befell him: some rocks rolled down from the Solaro mountain, destroying all he had built. So he decided to buy villa Cetrella and he spent there the happiest years of his life. Little by little he became intolerant to the island inhabitants, so he went back to England.
He dedicated the last ten years of his life to write an autobiographical work, My life and times (1936-71). By now he lived in Edinburgh, where he died in November 1972.

 


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