January 15, 2014

Jo Nesbø to pen a noir Macbeth


Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø

Bestselling Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, known for his series of crime novels about Inspector Harry Hole, has been pegged to write an updated version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in the noir style of his own books.

Alison Flood writes for the Guardian that Nesbø is the latest author to join the Hogarth Shakespeare project, launched by Random House’s Hogarth imprint last June to enlist contemporary authors to write prose versions of Shakespeare’s plays. While there are already several writers lined up to adapt comedies — Margaret Atwood is taking on The Tempest, Anne Tyler’s doing The Taming of the Shrew, and Howard Jacobson will rewrite The Taming of the Shrew — Nesbø is the first to tackle one of the Bard’s tragedies.

Nesbø describes the story of Macbeth as “close to my heart because it tackles topics I’ve been dealing with since I started writing.” He called to mind some of the similarities between his own novels and the Scottish play:

A thriller about the struggle for power, set both in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind. 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… No, it does not feel too far from home… 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.

The Hogarth Shakespeare is a concertedly international effort, working with authors and publishers around the world. The adaptations are scheduled to be published in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.