Collioure Patrick Obrian

Home .. Back to Art-Literature

Patrick O'Brian: Literature in Collioure

Patrick O'Brian(1914-2000) - is by far the most well-known author who called Collioure his home for more than 50 years. Brilliant, but very private (some say secretive), this British author arrived in Collioure with his second wife Mary Tolstoy in 1949. Initially they rented rooms and then a small apartment in Collioure and lived for some period of time at 2 Rue Francois Arago in the heart of the old village. by the early 1950s they established themselves in Rue de St Elme where they purchased a small vineyard and renovated the 'casot' (Catalan for vineyard shelter) into their home. The house still stands. It was here that he wrote his most famous novels, several of which formed the basis of the movie Master and Commanderwhich starred Russell Crowe. Their vineyard, around their house, lay on the lower slopes of the hill below Fort St Elme. The vines and wine-making became a great passion of the O'Brian's. Their house had been built in what was a quiet and undeveloped corner of the village. Finally surrounded by residences on either side, much to Patrick's annoyance.

In a small garden studio, Patrick wrote what was to become a series of 20 maritime novels centred on the characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (with a 21st novel partly finished, and many other works). Set in the early 1800's, during the Napoleonic wars, the novels revolve around the friendship and adventures at sea in the Mediterranean and across the globe of these two very different characters. Maturin, a Catalan surgeon who becomes accustomed to naval life and works as a spy for the British government, is believed to reflect aspects of O'Brian's personality.

He lived quietly in Collioure, befriending a number of the locals and becoming involved in grape growing and also very interested in the local fauna and flora. His favoured social spot was the hotel-bar Hotel Templiers, formerly called The Cafe des Sports, and it was here that Patrick met Picasso, about whom he wrote a thoroughly researched and successful biography. Mary assisted him in critiquing and correcting his writing. She died in 1998, and Patrick in 2000. He is buried alongside Mary, under a beautiful inscribed slab of local stone in the new cemetery above the village by the roundabout at exit 14 from the N114.

Patrick was protective of his beloved Collioure, and while French Catalonia was an inspiration he took care not to mention the village in his writings. He specifically mentioned it only once and then disparagingly. He used it as the basis for the fictitious village of St-Feliu in The Catalans, and a naval port battle set in Port Vendres involves a diversion of local troops along the coast road to a neighbouring unnamed village to the north. His life has been the subject of considerable confusion and speculation, largely due to his desire to maintain his privacy. Two biographies have been written, one by Dean King, Patrick O'Brian. A Life Reveale (Hodder and Stoughon) and another by stepson Nikolai Tolstoy, Patrick O'Brian. The Making of the Novelist(Random House), who lived with Patrick and his mother Mary for many years.

A collection of his works and the two biographies about him are kept at the Fisherman's House for use during your stay.

An interesting article about the man behind the name - Patrick O'Brian

Click the image to view a larger version with explanatory notes

O'Brian's house, Collioure Patrick O'Brians house-front
Patrick O'Brian in Collioure Patrick O'Brian's house
Patrick O'Brian's grave Close-up of O'Brian's grave
Patrick and Mary O'Brian's grave, Collioure Grave of both Patrick and Mary O'Brian, Collioure
Map - O'Brian in Collioure
Map of Patrick O'Brian

Collioure - Patrick O'Brian - South of France
Explore the village - visit our Collioure Cottage or Studio apartment