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Sweet Swan of Man Booker

Sweet Swan of Man Booker

2016 sees the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. To mark the occasion (and inadvertently help out the education secretary Michael Gove who is making it a GCSE English requirement to study a Shakespeare play) the Hogarth Shakespeare project has been launched. Various novelists have been asked to retell a Shakespeare play of their choosing. Among those commissioned so far are the great American novelist Ann Tyler (tackling The Taming of the Shrew) and the Scandi-noir writer Jo Nesbo (with, naturally, Macbeth). Some eminent Man Bookerites are in on the act too. Howard Jacobson (Man Booker winner in 2011) is acknowledging that the Bard got to Jewish problems before he did and is recasting The Merchant of Venice while Margaret Atwood (Booker winner in 2000) is taking on The Tempest

Further to the news that Christos Tsiolkas’s 2010 Man Booker longlisted The Slap is to be turned into a television mini-series in his native Australia, he is now to receive the same treatment in America. NBC are taking on the project but dates and cast have yet to be announced. The book, published in the US a couple of years after its Man Booker recognition, was described by the Los Angeles Times reviewer as “The Sopranos meets The Real Housewives of Orange County”. Whether this is a good or a bad thing for the small-screen adaptation remains to be seen.

Damon Galgut, twice Man Booker shortlisted (in 2003 and 2010), has a new novel out - Arctic Summer, about E.M. Forster, which he no doubt hopes will be a case of third time lucky. When asked about how the nominations affected him he was admirably frank: “They have changed everything, and mostly for the better.” He was just as pithy when asked what he has to say when he is compared to Graham Greene or the Man Booker double winner J.M. Coetzee. His answer? “Nothing”

Foyles, one of the world’s great bookshops, is, as readers of this column will know, expanding. It is moving just down the Charing Cross Road in London into swanky new premises that can hold a staggering 200,000 titles over its four floors. It has though chosen a curious date for the official opening: Friday 13th June. If it is tempting fate with the date then it is propitiating the same gods with its choice of ribbon cutter. Hilary Mantel will step down from her literary Mount Olympus to declare the new shop open.  

Foyles are not the only ones with their fingers crossed for the day. University College London’s English department is hosting “One Day in the City: A Celebration of London and Literature” at the same time. Several Man Bookerites will be taking part in the various events running at the Gower Street campus. Jonathan Coe (1996 judge) will be comparing London and Birmingham with David Lodge (chair of judges 1989 and a three-time shortlistee); Will Self (shortlisted 2012) will talk about taboo language with John Sutherland (chair of judges 2005); meanwhile Kazuo Ishiguro (Booker winner with The Remains of the Day) will be in discussion with John Mullan (judge 2009).