Tuesday, 3 March 2009


The Guardian Review has an excellent, thought-provoking essay by Salman Rushdie on the subject of literary adaptation. Rushdie's contention is that the aim of any such enterprise – whether it is the translation of a poem or the transfer of a novel to film – should be to capture the essence of the original work. Slavish "fidelity" to the source material is both misguided and futile, hence his apparent respect for what he describes as the "creatively savage" approach taken by Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's 2002 film.

However Rushdie also wishes to examine the notion of adaptation in its broadest sense. To do so, he says, "is to see that all the meanings of the word deal with the question of what is essential – in a work adapted to another form, in an individual adapting to a new home, in a society adapting to a new age. What do you preserve? What do you jettison? What is changeable, and where must you draw the line? The questions are always the same, and the way we answer them determines the quality of the adaptation, of the book, the poem, or of our own lives."

In the course of the article, Rushdie reveals that he is working on a screenplay of Midnight's Children, which is to be directed by Deepa Mehta. It will be fascinating to hear his further thoughts on the adaptation process once this project comes to fruition.

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