The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Anthony Trollope, Graphic Novelist

(Photo: The Trollope Jupiter)

In today's moment of awesome:
Anthony Trollope is one of the most celebrated novelists in the English language, a towering icon of the Victorian era who is feted by critics and adored by readers to this day.
But now one of his famously lengthy works is being recast in the unlikely form of a comic book, pared down to fewer than a hundred pages of cartoon strips.
The first Trollope ‘graphic novel’ is based on his relatively obscure work John Caldigate. and has been re-named Dispossession
Published in 1879, it is a story of bigamy, blackmail and betrayal set during the Australian gold rush, a very different milieu from the political and ecclesiastical intrigue of the Palliser novels and The Barchester Chronicles for which Trollope is best known.
Under the new title of Dispossession, the comic book will be published next year in time for the bicentenary celebrations of Trollope’s birth.

Dispossession has the same characters and plot as the original novel but it tells the story in a way that will surprise the writer’s legion of fans.
Trollope is often to referred to as the Establishment’s favourite author, and his admirers include former Prime Minister Sir John Major, the Bishop of London Richard Chartres and Lord Fellowes, the Oscar-winning creator of Downton Abbey.
Anthony Trollope is one of the most celebrated novelists in the English language, a towering icon of the Victorian era who is feted by critics to this day
Anthony Trollope is one of the most celebrated novelists in the English language, a towering icon of the Victorian era who is feted by critics to this day
Whereas Trollope’s novel ran to more than 600 pages and included no illustrations, the graphic version has just 96 pages and 576 separate images.
Much of the narrative is delivered in the form of speech bubbles.
It also includes 700 words of Wiradjuri, an Aboriginal language that does not feature in the original book.
John Caldigate is a Victorian ne’er-do-well who graduates from Cambridge with gambling debts and begins a new life in the Australian goldfields.
On the voyage he meets feisty widow Euphemia Smith, and the pair set up home in Australia.
Caldigate returns to England alone after making his fortune and marries his childhood sweetheart, Hester Bolton.
But his past comes back to haunt him when Euphemia turns up and accuses him of bigamy.
More from The Trollope Jupiter:
Dr Grennan explained that he had been commissioned to produce the new book by the University of Leuven in Belgium where the graphic novel enjoys a very different position than it does in the UK. He explained that in the Francophone world, the graphic novel has the status of literature and that children graduate from comics to more serious adult themed (in all senses) graphic novels. It is not unusual, therefore, to find a graphic novel version of Camus’s L’Etranger on the best-seller lists.

In response to an audience question, Dr Grennan said that the market for graphic novels in the UK is less mature (again, in all senses) being predominantly a niche market with a younger target demographic (under age 30).

The new book is being produced in both French and English language versions using the same illustrations but, Grennan noted, with rather larger speech bubbles for the French edition, which will also include an academic foreword which will not feature in the English language version.

The speakers explained that the most significant challenge in adapting the book for the graphic novel format was how to represent the author’s voice. Trollope’s narrator interventions are well known and often shed interesting lights on the characters and plots of his novels. In a radio play adaptation, which Dr Grennan used as an example, this can be achieved by having a narrator speak, but the illustrations of a graphic novel cannot include an author figure. That would breach one of the conventions of the form.

Dr Grennan explained that the approach they had taken to address this conundrum was, in fact, to play with the rules of the graphic novel form a little. The graphic novel is essentially cinematic in its treatment of a story – cutting from long shot to close up and showing different points of view. in Dispossession, Dr Grennan has subverted this convention and maintained a consistent distance from the action in the illustrations – all figures are full length, no close ups – thereby conveying a sense of authorial/narrator distance from the action.
An interesting project, and one which I will most certainly get myself. John Caldigate is one of the handful of AT's works I haven't yet read, and it's clearly time.

I'm a little cross, though, to be denied the academic foreword, as I do not read or speak French.

Dare I say that this looks like an auspicious augury for Phineas at Bay?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In fact, 'Dispossession' has an expended afterword from the French edition - so more, not less. Enjoy!