Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Titus Awakes

I have, just this last hour, sat through the most wonderful talk by Sebastian Peake on his father Mervyn Peake, author of the stunning Gormenghast trilogy. The evening was hosted by Viktor Wynde (whom I have blogged about in passing before) at his Little Shop of Horrors in East London. Peake Jnr is an amiable and erudite fellow who shed light on the magical life of his father to a rapt audience.

Born in 1911 into a missionary family in China, Peake became an artist of some note in the middle of the twentieth century but his career was cut short by Parkinson's Disease. He has left a legacy of drawings, poems and novels which continue to inspire. His most famous creation, the aforementioned trilogy, is arguably unfilmable. It was somewhat mangled by the BBC in their television adaption in 2000 and continues to be kicked around Hollywood. Terry Gilliam, whose aborted effort ranks amongst the long line of Gormenghast casualties, wisely notes in his wonderful Dark Knights & Holy Fools that the series is best used as a treasure trove from which creatives should borrow pieces rather than try and adapt wholesale.

The wonderful thing I have just learned is that a newly edited, complete version of Titus Awakes, the fourth novel in the series, will be published next year. Peake left Awakes as a very rough draft when he died. His wife, Maeve Gilmore, continued the story but it was never published. Although Peake's notes for the novel have been printed before, from what his son said I gather that the new book will be the first publication of a finished Peake-Gilmore synthesis.

I leave you, I hope, in a bundle of excitement similar to my own, with some of Peake's fantastic drawings.

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