Parade’s End – not just Downton for adults

Ford Madox Ford’s quartet Parade’s End reaches the screens in a five episode BBC/HBO/VRT television adaptation written by Tom Stoppard on 24 August, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall, along with Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Anne-Marie Duff and Roger Allam. Parade’s End was described by Anthony Burgess as ‘the finest novel about the First World War’, by Samuel Hynes as ‘the greatest war novel ever written by an Englishman’, by Malcolm Bradbury as ‘a central Modernist novel of the 1920s, in which it is exemplary’, and by John N. Gray as ‘possibly the greatest 20th-century novel in English’. The new adaptation is the first by Stoppard in twenty years, and this commission is considered by many as one of the great undiscovered works of the 20th century.

Ford Madox Ford was an editor, essayist, critic, advocate, and above all a great novelist. Born in Surrey in 1873, he was the grandson of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. His masterpiece The Good Soldier was published in 1915, the same year he took a commission in the army. His experience furnished him with material for Parade’s End. He died in Deauville in 1939.

Dr Sara Haslam, Senior Lecturer in the English Department, was invited to the set of the new adaptation. New critical editions of Ford’s four part novel have been published by Carcanet Press – the series is the first to be fully annotated and to contain authoritative corrected texts of the novels, and Dr Haslam edited the third in the series, A Man Could Stand Up.  Chair of the Ford Madox Ford Society, Dr Haslam was interviewed by Alan Yentob for a special edition of The Culture Show on Ford Madox Ford. Dr Haslam, with author Alan Judd, writes in the 18 August edition of the Spectator on Ford.

The international conference Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End: Modernism and the First World War, will be held at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, 27–29 September 2012, where the director of the new series, Susanna White (BAFTA award-winning director of Bleak House (2005), Jane Eyre (2006), and Generation Kill (2008)) will be a special guest.

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