Peter Ackroyd Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Peter Ackroyd
Photo © Charles Hopkinson

Peter Ackroyd

An interview with Peter Ackroyd

A short essay by Peter Ackroyd about his 2009 novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein

It is of course obviously true that Frankenstein is a wonderful story, and I was eager to see if I could extend it in other directions. It is a myth and a history, an allegory and a nightmare. I wanted to see if it was possible to maintain all those elements in a re-interpretation of the original text.
I had been greatly impressed by Mary Shelley’s original, but I was eager to tease out some of her assumptions and themes.

I had always been interested in the Romantic movement of English poetry, in the early nineteenth century, and the story of Victor Frankenstein allowed me to explore all the possible meanings of “romantic” in that context. This also meant that I could discuss the worship of electricity and new science in the period. But it also allowed me to introduce the ‘real’ characters of Byron and others into the plot. I wanted to set the story in London, as a way of re-imagining and re-creating the nineteenth -century city. I also wanted to see if I could recreate the language and texture of the period so that the reader would feel connected in an intimate way with a culture and civilization that have now disappeared.

In that I was greatly assisted by the fact that I wrote and presented a series on BBC Television, entitled ‘The Romantics’, which allowed me to suggest the lines of continuity between Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and of course Mary Shelley herself. All of these people appear in the novel itself. I was also helped by the fact that in the course of filming I went to all of the sites that appear in the novel itself, particularly the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley had the original inspiration for her novel. We spent one night filming there, and on the balcony of the house I had an intimation of the novel I was about to write.

-- Peter Ackroyd

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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