Jane Austen’s Emma to get 21st century update

Best-selling British author Alexander McCall Smith is to pen a new version of Jane Austen's classic novel "Emma" with a 21st century twist, his publisher announced yesterday.

McCall Smith, who has sold over 20 million copies of his "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, said being commissioned to re-write Austen's 1815 original was "like being asked to eat a box of delicious chocolates".

"Not only is 'Emma' one of the finest novels in the English language, but it is possibly Jane Austen's most thought-provoking and interesting book," the 65-year-old said.

"Writing a contemporary version of Emma is both a privilege and a real challenge."

The book will see McCall Smith swap the setting of his detective novels - Botswana's capital Gaborone - for modern-day England.

Publisher HarperCollins said the new version of "Emma" would be released late next year.

Kate Elton, head of fiction at HarperCollins, said the publisher was "thrilled" to have signed up McCall Smith.

"The novels of Austen and McCall Smith share some essential qualities which make them enduringly popular with readers -- gently poking fun at their characters' 'follies and inconsistencies' as Austen would have it, and a sense that people can learn from this so that goodness wins out in the end.

"It promises to be an amazing pairing."

The book is the fourth to be announced as part of the Austen Project, tasking authors with reworking Austen's witty 19th century romances for a contemporary audience.

The first book in the series, Joanna Trollope's new version of "Sense and Sensibility", will be published this month, followed by Val McDermid's rewrite of "Northanger Abbey" due early next year.

Curtis Sittenfeld's updated "Pride and Prejudice" will be published in late 2015.

Born to Scottish parents in what is now Zimbabwe, McCall Smith worked for years as a professor of medical law before penning the adventures of Botswanan private investigator Precious Ramotswe.

He has since written several other series, and over thirty books for children. - AFP, October 5, 2013.


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