27 September 2011, 18:45

Conan Doyle boom in literature and cinema

Conan Doyle boom in literature and cinema

A literary sensation occurred in the UK on the 26th of September: Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Narrative of John Smith came out 130 years after it was written. How did it happen that the debut novel of the English classic was lost for so many years?

A literary sensation occurred in the UK on the 26th of September: Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Narrative of John Smith came out 130 years after it was written.

How did it happen that the debut novel of the English classic was lost for so many years? This is a mystery even for experts of the British Library which has the writer’s largest archive. It is really a strange story. Conan Doyle is believed to have written The Narrative of John Smith at the age of 23 and sent it to a publisher hoping for a publication. The manuscript was lost and the author had to re-write it from memory. However, he did not make any more attempts to publish it. Meanwhile, experts believe that this first large work of the writer is of great cultural significance. “In the main character John Smith one can easily trace the author’s features and the literary methods are similar to those which Conan Doyle used in his more mature years,” Alexandra Yeretian from the Slovo Russian publishing house says in her interview for The Voice of Russia. Slovo will publish the lost novel for Russian readers already in December:

“John smith is a middle-aged man who lives in a flat with a landlady. Critics believe that she was one of the prototypes for the future Mrs. Hudson, - Alexandra Yeretian says. – The narration is done in the first person. John Smith suffers from gout and is often chair-ridden but he is very observant, often has visitors with whom he discusses various issues and whom he tells about his observations. We can see that Conan Doyle was already working on his deductive method which Sherlock Holmes used later,” the publisher says.

The novel is interrupted after Chapter 6 but does not produce the impression of an unfinished work. The British Library bought it at an auction together with a collection of private documents for almost a million pounds.

Like the British edition, the Russian edition will include a facsimile of the author’s manuscript.  “This novel is only the beginning, - Alexandra Yeretian continues. – On the 1st of November the Slovo publishing house, at the same time with the UK and the USA, will hold a world premiere of a sequel to the stories about Sherlock Holmes authorized by Conan Doyle’s descendants.  The Conan Doyle Literary Foundation has never before given any author permission to write new adventures of Sherlock Holmes, although there were numerous appeals, as many writers wanted to try their pen at describing such characters as Holmes and Watson.”

The descendants have given such permission for the first time to British author Anthony Horowitz who wrote the scripts for the serials Hercule Poirot and Midsomer Murders and who has been interested in Conan Doyle all his life. Alexandra Yeretian says that Horowitz’s book The House of Silk is a skillfully written detective novel true to Conan Doyle’s style and with an intricate plot. Its preamble is written in the name of Dr. Watson who explains that  he did not publish this story for a long time so as not to shock British society.

It looks like the world is living through a new Arthur Conan Doyle boom. Last year a new British serial Sherlock Holmes came onto world screens, in which the classic’s characters live in the 21st century. This year famous director Guy Ritchie will complete the second film version of the two friends’ adventures. The premiere of the film Sherlock Holmes: Shadow Dance in Russia will take place on the 29th of December. Russian film-makers have also decided to produce a film about Holmes and Watson without looking back at the famous film of Soviet times which was made in the 1980s. Since then Russia has become the country of the best Holmes of all times and nations: this name was given to actor Vasily Livanov  by the British people together with the Order of the British Empire. Livanov as Holmes is also part of a statue near the British Embassy in Moscow. Now Russia will make another, 16-part version of the adventures of the famous detective and his friend.

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