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Adaptation Watch: Neil Gaiman Might Adapt Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST for Film

Guardian is reporting that a film version of Mervyn Peake’s classic fantasy trilogy GORMENGHAST could be adapted to film. What’s more, Neil Gaiman is in talks to write it. Gaiman revealed on Twitter that he was entering talks to adapt Gormenghast as a movie. Fabian Peake, Mervyn Peake’s son, is on board with the idea.

Although already adapted for TV (the first two novels, as a four-episode television serial for the BBC in 2000), radio and theater, it looks like the whole trilogy may now be told on film. The GORMENGHAST trilogy is considered a gothic “fantasy of manners” although it lacks anything magic or paranormal. Originally published between 1946 and 1959, the Gormenghast trilogy (set in the wonderfully drawn Castle Gormenghast) recounts the life of Titus, 77th Earl of Groan, beginning with his birth in the novel Titus Groan. The second book, Gormenghast, follows Titus from the age of seven to seventeen, as he claims control of the castle despite the scheming of his underling, Steerpike. The third book, Titus Alone, eventually sees Titus travel far from Gormenghast to find a futuristic world with advanced technology.

Although considered a trilogy, more books were planned and have been published. A short book called Boy in Darkness, about a brief adventure by the young Titus, was published in 1956. Planned follow-up books were tentatively-titled Titus Awakes and Gormenghast Revisited, but were never completed because Parkinson’s disease intervened. (Three coherently written pages of Titus Awakes can be found in the Overlook Press edition of Titus Alone.) Peake died in 1968 but his widow wrote her version of Titus Awakes and called it Search Without End, which was eventually published in 2011 as Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Peake’s birth.

Here’s how the book is described:

A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom, unless the conniving Steerpike, who is determined to rise above his menial position and control the House of Groan, has his way.

In these extraordinary novels, Peake has created a world where all is like a dream–lush, fantastical, and vivid. Accompanying the text are Peake’s own drawings, illustrating the whole assembly of strange and marvelous creatures that inhabit Gormenghast.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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