Pop culture meets the classics

Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø and “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens are featured in new releases of old literary classics.

Capitalizing on the global success of TV series 'Downton Abbey' in which Dan Stevens played young attorney, soldier, and husband Matthew Crawley, Macmillan Audio will be releasing audiobook versions of 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey' read by Stevens.

New releases of old classics have been scheduled for publication in the following months, featuring popular names like Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø and actor Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”).

Jo Nesbø, author of the Harry Hole thrillers, will write a new version of “Macbeth” for Hogarth Shakespeare. The series will feature "prose retellings" of Shakespeare plays for 21st-century readers by writers such as Margaret Atwood (“The Tempest”), Jeanette Winterson (“The Winter’s Tale”), Anne Tyler (“The Taming of the Shrew”), and Howard Jacobson (“The Merchant of Venice”).

“‘Macbeth’ is a story that is close to my heart because it tackles topics I’ve been dealing with since I started writing." Nesbø said. "A main character who has the moral code and the corrupted mind, the personal strength and the emotional weakness, the ambition and the doubts to go either way. A thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind. No, it does not feel too far from home.”

Nesbø said of 'Macbeth,' "Yes, it is a great story. And, no, I will not attempt to do justice to William Shakespeare, nor the story. I will simply take what I find of use and write my own story. And, yes, I will have the nerve to call it 'Macbeth.'"

Deputy publishing director at Chatto & Windus/Hogarth Becky Hardie told the Guardian, "from the very start we wanted The Hogarth Shakespeare to surprise and excite readers of all kinds from all over the world. [...] Having an international thriller writer of Jo Nesbø's stature and popularity on board is the perfect realisation of that wish."

“Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens has also taken part in a project that intends to popularize the classics. He recently narrated new audiobook productions of the 1960s Robert Fitzgerald’s translations of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” for Macmillan audio, which are set for release in August.

The Hogarth Shakespeare adaptations will be released in 2016, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

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