Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Stone Table

A new, but unauthorised, Narnia novel we may never get to read:
Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke
Francis Spufford has taken a break from writing award-winning adult literature to fill in the details of what exactly went on in Narnia before The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But he isn’t expecting his novel, set in C.S. Lewis’s magical world, to be published any time soon. ....

“I was a deeply, passionately Narnia-loving child myself,” Spufford said, “and I’d always wanted there to be one more novel. Not that I had a specific gap in mind, I just wanted to stay in Narnia a little longer.”

The series is “finished as it stands” he continued, “but there is a gap in the history of Narnia between The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. That was the only gap I thought was large enough for someone to do some impertinent fiddling.” ....

The Stone Table follows Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke, who watch Aslan sing Narnia into being in The Magician’s Nephew, as they return to Narnia. Spufford said he was cautious in giving clues as to what happens in the adventure, but the novel “explains why there are four empty thrones in the castle of Cair Paravel, and where the Stone Table came from”. ....

The much-loved world of Aslan is under copyright until 2034. After finishing the novel, Spufford made a “tentative” approach to ask the Lewis estate if they might agree to publication, but did not receive a reply. Eventually he printed up 75 copies and started giving them to friends. According to the writer Adam Roberts, the novel is “superb”, a rare match of literary ability and authorial sensibility. .... (more)
Alan Jacobs has read the book: "I had the privilege of reading Francis Spufford’s The Stone Table in draft, with what I believe the enthusiasts call 'dawning wonder,' and also with increasing frustration at a copyright regime that made it unlikely to be published." Jacobs writes:
The Stone Table features characters who appear in other Narnia books: most notably, two children named Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke and the great lion Aslan. The seven Narnia books that Lewis wrote have already come into the public domain in some countries, and may even do so in the United States — though those of us who have seen the law extend copyright again and again may be pardoned for doubting that it will ever happen. But Spufford has written a new Narnia story, so copyright law doesn’t affect his: what matters is that the world of Narnia is a registered trademark of C.S. Lewis (PTE.) Ltd. — and trademarks, if they are consistently used and defended against infringement, last forever. ....

The Stone Table deserves a very wide readership indeed. Spufford has suppressed his own distinctive and eloquent style and made himself a ventriloquist of Lewis: to read the story is really and truly to return to the Narnia millions of readers love. And this is not merely a matter of style: Spufford’s story is thematically and even theologically Lewisian. It is a marvelous and utterly delightful tale, as wise as it is thrilling. I so wish you could read it. (more)

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