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Philip Hensher: Not all sequels are weaker than originals

14th January 2011

Just because a sequel is written by a different author to the original does not mean it is necessarily inferior, one novelist has argued.

Philip Hensher wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the recent court ruling that Swedish novelist Frederik Colting cannot link his 60 Years Later to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has brought the issue of sequels back into the reading public's eye.

Hensher pointed out that many authors have written sequels to their favourite novels. Emma Tennant, Rachel Billington and Fay Weldon crafted follow-ups to Jane Austen's works while Susan Hill and Nicola Beauman continued on from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, he noted.

'Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea revitalised Jane Eyre by telling the story of the mad first wife. Peter Carey's excellent Jack Maggs similarly fills the untold blanks in Great Expectations,' he added.

However, the commentator warned that writing a sequel can lead to authors being compared to a literary great and said it is easy not come up to scratch, citing the example of the many weak emulations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Under the 60 Years Later ruling, Colting is banned from selling the book in the US or Canada, but can distribute in other countries, Publishers Weekly reported.
 

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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