| DEFIANT LOVE: Covers of James Fairfax and Emma
Love that dare speaks its name
Imagine Jane Austen had started Pride and Prejudice, written in 1813, slightly differently: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of another man to marry.
In fact, an experiment substituting gay love for heterosexual has been attempted by re-envisioning another of Austens novels.
James Fairfax is being billed as stunning, gender-bending, stylish dance-of-manners version of Jane Austens beloved classic novel Emma. It explores the secrets of the relationship between the mysterious and accomplished James Fairfax and the handsome Frank Churchill.
The books international release from Norilana, a publishing house set up three years ago in Los Angeles, is due on August 1.
The publisher, Vera Nazarian, tells me that she immediately agreed when the idea of reworking Emma against the backdrop of an alternative Regency England was proposed by Adam Campan, the nom de plume of a literature scholar who has taught for 36 years on three continents.
Vera emphasises that James Fairfax, by Jane Austen and Adam Campan, is not an erotic novel. It is written in the same style as Jane Austen, very mannered and elegant.
If the experiment works, then it is very likely that other well known novels will also merit re-envisioning.
Campan, apparently a recluse and probably gay himself, is for now reluctant to step into the limelight on the strength of borrowed words.
In his foreword to the novel, Campan states: Jane Austen invented the modern novel, and by so doing, helped shape modern culture.
He makes another point: One thing apparent when one reads deeply in the period: gay relationships were far more common than at first appears. Frank Churchill does not respond to Emma Woodhouses charms because he is in love with a man.
Does his novel work?
Campans offer couldnt be fairer: Meet James Fairfax and decide.
The publisher says James Fairfax is not pornographic and draws attention to this typical extract dealing with an encounter between Fairfax and Frank Churchill:
James? said a familiar voice.
Not the repulsively correct Mr. Fairfax of recent weeks, or the careless, bewitching Fairfax of last autumn, but James.
James, Frank Churchill said, coming forward tentatively, his tone neither careless, nor demanding, nor angry, nor even gallant.
James found himself on his feet, and close enough to see the spangles of mist in Frank Churchills fair hair as the dearest voice in the world spoke low, plaintive and pleading.
In London, we are quite used to the re-envisioning of much loved classics. However, I have not much cared for those who have tried to make out that Sherlock Holmes harboured feelings other than friendship for Dr Watson.
We are also familiar with transpositions. The Tamasha Theatre Company recently shifted Emily Brontes Wuthering Heights from the windswept moors of Yorkshire to the windswept deserts of Rajasthan.
Gurinder Chadhas Bride and Prejudice, a transposition of Pride and Prejudice from England to Punjab, might have caused more of a stir if two male Bollywood stars had departed happily for their honeymoon at the end of the movie.
Shakespeare may not remain immune from re-envisioning if an enterprising playwright were to offer the world new plays such as Romeo and Ronaldo or indeed Antony and Aziz. And in India, villagers may in future gather of an evening to watch and weep over Mohammed and Majnoon.
| PLAY TIME: Athletes at the Special Olympics
Special from Sachin
Sachin Tendulkar has sent a filmed message of support to the organisers of the Special Olympics which are being held in Leicester this weekend for mentally handicapped athletes from all over the UK.
We call them athletes of learning disability, a spokeswoman tells me, adding the participants, who have had to overcome many hurdles, will compete in 21 sports, including football, gymnastics, cycling and tennis.
Sachins message reflects the games motto: Let me win but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.
The film was carried from Mumbai to Leicester by the actor Dalip Tahil, who has undertaken to promote the Special Olympics in India as its recently appointed ambassador.
The film was produced gratis by Prahlad Kakkar (who lives in the same apartment block in Mumbai as Sachin) and directed by Uzer Khan, who works for Kakkars Genesis Films.
Sachin came on the dot, was a complete pro and improvised beautifully, marvels Dalip, who is now based in the UK. He said he hoped to see Special Games in India soon.
Dalip considers Aamir Khans Taare Zameen Par a step in the right direction but would like to see many more Bollywood films dealing with disability.
The stigma associated with disability, he says, should be removed: In India if a child is disabled, parents blame themselves, saying it was for sins committed in a previous life.
Meanwhile, the organisers in Leicester are over the moon at receiving Sachins message.
An Indian friend was cornered by three thugs on Milan railway and robbed of all his cash and credit cards. But police shrugged their shoulders when he complained — Indian tourists beware.
How young Muslims get radicalised at university is the subject of a new play, Black Album, which Hanif Kureishi has adapted from his 1995 novel.
The play at the National Theatre is in collaboration with Tara Arts, whose founder, Jatinder Varma, has directed The Black Album.
Reviews by national newspaper critics have been unkind but I especially enjoyed the second half which ends, literally, with a bang and not a whimper.
The plot revolves around Shahid Hasan, who goes to university where a group of fundamentalist students seek to brainwash him to their narrow view of Islam. The play is set in 1989 when publication of The Satanic Verses had provoked book burnings by Muslims and earned Salman Rushdie a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran.
It is not easy to pitch the debate on fundamentalism versus liberalism just right without making the exchanges sound clichéd. I thought the actor Jonathan Bonnici was very convincing as Shahid, a young man attracted by his female course tutor who is more than willing to initiate him into rather more than his set syllabus.
Perhaps the reviewers wanted a better explanation for the extremism that has gripped small but significant parts of Britains 1.6m Muslim population. But The Black Album is set in 1989, not in 2005, when suicide bombers killed 52 in London. From the vantage point of 2009, the audience can see there is almost a logical progression from then to now but Shahid and his fellow Muslim students could not have anticipated what was to come.
It is always enjoyable listening to the BBCs excellent cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew but Aggers has never been impressed either with Monty Panesar, whom he has escorted off the premises, or Ravi Bopara, despite the latters three consecutive Test centuries.
Boparas innings will produce further debate about his batting at number 3. I have always felt that he appears too casual, he observed typically about Bopara.
If Aggers plays back his radio commentaries over many years, he will wonder why he gets so excited by the sight of fair haired bowlers.