Modernist novels for tv

After the ratings success for BBC2's Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford, I was wondering what other great modernist novels might work for tv, and thought of the following:

1. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. This would definitely be a tricky one, the dreamlike tale of Nora, victim of the "drugged, alcoholic, sexually ambiguous Paris nightworld", but would also be fascinating.

2. The Years by Virginia Woolf. This family saga about the Pargeters is possibly Woolf's most accessible novel, but it's also the one she found hardest to do. Might work well interspersed with details about her own family life (on whom the Pargeters are based).

3. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Ford wanted to call this novel The Saddest Story, about John Dowell, the long-deceived husband when two Edwardian couples befriend one another. Possibly the best unreliable narrator ever.  

4. Quartet by Jean Rhys. Her debut novel about Paris's demi-monde, and the involvement of Marya in the lives of a powerful ex-pat couple, is loosely based on Rhys's own affair with Ford.

5. The Secret Agent  by Joseph Conrad. Conrad's tale of secret agent Verloch, who persuades his brother-in-law to plant a bomb at the Greenwich Conservatory would make a brilliant tv series.

6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. There have been many productions of Ulysses and experimental stage works of Finnegans Wake, but Joyce's debut novel would be an easier one to dramatize, and has some wonderful set pieces (the bird girl on the beach, for a start).

Any others?  


  1. I'm not an avid reader, and didn't read any of these novels, but The Secret Agent seems perfect for movie. It's for the general audience. Virgina Woolf and James Joyce will not appeal to the general audience of TV.


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