McCall Smith’s Emma?


Ooh dear.  I’m am all in a tizzy now.  Have just been browsing Twitter and seen the announcement that Alexander McCall Smith is apparently going to rewrite Jane Austen’s Emma!

Now I’m a huge fan of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, though not of his other series, but I’m struggling to see it in my mind.  I think I don’t like the idea.  To begin with, I have a strong aversion to ‘remakes’ whether book or screen.  And leaving aside the ‘why????’ for a moment, I’m not sure whether I feel McCall Smith will produce the same delicacy of wit and feeling I have known and loved all my life from Austen’s fabulous novels.

And so … WHY?????  Sorry, just couldn’t put it off any longer.  I don’t understand what there is to gain from this.  Is he planning a straightforward retelling of the Emma story or will it be Emma vs Zombies or Death comes to Emma a la P D James????

There has been much said over the years about the rewriting of well-established books by other authors.  Indeed there is even a two-year Open University Masters Degree on this subject (Intertextuality) that I still cherish forlorn hopes of studying at some point.  Whether it’s watching Clueless on the telly or reading The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, the question is, how far does an author or film-maker need to go to create an autonomous work?  And I too am ‘guilty’, because I am working on a new series now that will continue the work of Patricia Wentworth with her Miss Silver detective novels by introducing characters from Wentworth’s beloved series.

I suppose autonomy is achieved when you can metaphorically remove all traces of the original story and still have a work that stands on its own two feet.  don’t think that’s the O/U’s definition.

But I can say I have never wanted to read Pemberley by Emma Tennant nor Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea simply because I imagine the impact these books will have on how I feel about the original stories.  For me that is key.  Does the ‘new’ work detract or alter the reader’s feelings about or experience of the original work?  The problem is, there is only one way to find out …