Friday, 16 September 2011

Austen re-written?

The book pages are full of publisher HarperCollins commissioning Joanna Trollope to write a contemporary reworking of Austen's novel, Sense and Sensibility. It is to be the first of a "major" new series in which modern authors reimagine Austen’s books in a contemporary setting.

HarperFiction publishing director Louisa Joyner came up with the idea after reading a comparison between Trollope and Austen – Trollope herself has said that "comparisons with Jane Austen make me twitch. She is a Great: I am a Good - on a good day".

"TV adaptations of Austen all focus on one reading of her: they are all about the romance. But actually she was such an acute social commenter – and economics were such an important part of it," said Joyner. This led to wondering how a contemporary novelist would deal with the stories.
She describes the new series as a "conversation" between Austen and today's novelists. This is no attempt to better Jane. “It's a respectful conversation, and if it ends up with people talking more about Austen and Trollope, then that's a good thing. It's not a competition. It is a literary celebration, and all debate is good."

John Mullan, Professor of English at University College London, said the project was part of "a time-honoured literary genre". "In the 18th century they used to call it imitation," he said. "It's an old tradition - Pope did Horace, Dr Johnson did Juvenal, now Trollope is doing Austen ... I think it's fine. It always works best if the people who enjoy it most know the original - that's the test."
HarperCollins is currently in talks with other "authors of global literary significance" about the remaining five Austen novels. Joyner would not comment on suggestions that Stephen King might produce an interesting take on Northanger Abbey, or that an Ian Rankin crime twist to Emma could prove fun.
Now the last two suggestions could be interesting, don't you think?

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