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The New Agatha Christie: How Sophie Hannah Resurrected Detective Hercule Poirot
The New Agatha Christie: How Sophie Hannah Resurrected Detective Hercule Poirot
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The first of the novels about Hercule Poirot was written in 1916, and the latter is scheduled for release next year, 2020. Is it possible that the character in the works of Agatha Christie was able to continue to exist even after the death of its creator, revealing new crimes and unraveling new psychological riddles? Is it true devotion to the author to recognize the right of his character to live his life in new works?

Death and resurrection of Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot first appeared in Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Accident in Styles

Hercule Poirot, a Belgian private detective, is one of the long-lived characters. Firstly, Agatha Christie herself has been creating novels about him for more than five decades - that is, in the last of them, "Curtain", the age of the hero should have already exceeded a century. And secondly, both in 1920, when the novel "The Mysterious Accident in Styles" was released, and in 2020, when the next work about the great detective is expected, Poirot is still interesting to the reading public and continues to inspire the author for new books.

The image of Hercule Poirot is like his calling card. From sophiehannah.com

The image of Hercule Poirot is probably known to all book lovers of the planet. His appearance is quite extraordinary - he is short, even small, with an egg-shaped head and a lush mustache, always impeccably and warmly dressed, wearing perfectly clean patent leather shoes - even where circumstances dictate a completely different dress code. Poirot brings an exotic touch to the life of the British involved in the investigation of another crime, and to English literature, where he stands out from the rest of the characters - typical inhabitants of Foggy Albion. Perhaps it was such a bright individuality and uniqueness that allowed Poirot to take his own place in literature, because, whatever you say, and in the wake of the success of the works of Conan Doyle, any newly written detective hero risked merging with the mass of followers of Sherlock Holmes.

As conceived by Agatha Christie in the novel "The Curtain", Poirot was completing his last investigation

Add to the image a manic inclination for cleanliness and order, old-fashionedness, punctuality, ambition, egocentrism, in addition to a sharp mind and observation - and we get a completely finished image, worthy to leave the pages of books and live an independent life - as it happened with Poirot. More than three dozen novels, fifty-four stories, one play - this is the "baggage" of Hercule Poirot, whose life and career, it would seem, ended - spectacularly and dramatically - in 1975, when Agatha Christie's last novel about the Belgian was published, that By the way, even the newspapers noted: on August 6 of that year in the New York Times, readers saw an obituary announcing that Hercule Poirot, a famous Belgian detective, had died.

Hercule Poirot is the only literary character to whom an obituary was dedicated

But, of course, it was too early to bury the detective - works about him became too big an event in literature. Television gave Poirot a new life - the series "Agatha Christie's Poirot" became not just an adaptation of what had already been written, but told new stories with the participation of a detective - the creators of the television movie did not bind themselves to literally following the text of the books, and sometimes developed the plot according to their own ideas about the hero and those events that fill his investigations.

Therefore, it is not surprising that one day, more than a third of a century after the death of the queen of detective Agatha Christie, a new novel about Hercule Poirot was published - recognized by the heirs of the writer as the official continuation of this series of her books.

Is Sophie Hannah the new Agatha Christie?

Sophie Hannah

The English writer Sophie Hannah became Poirot's new guide to life. She was born in 1971 in Manchester in the family of the political scientist and academician Norman Geras and the children's writer Adele Geras. From the age of five, writing stories became Sophie's main hobby, and thanks to her parents, there was no shortage of books in her home from which she could draw inspiration. The works of Enid Blyton, then Ruth Rendell had a great influence on the future style of the writer. When the girl was about twelve, her father invited her to read "The Body in the Library" by Agatha Christie, and from that moment the detective queen became Sophie's favorite writer. By the age of fourteen she had read everything that Christie had written, and besides, she “fell ill” with the detective genre, which would later become the main one for her in literary activity.

By the time Hannah began writing novels about Poirot, she was already a well-known writer

First, Sophie Hannah became famous as the author of children's poetry - her first collection was published in 1995. But detective stories brought much greater fame to the writer - written under the influence of Agatha Christie, from whom Sophie learned to see different sides of human nature, attach importance to the small actions of the characters, see them at once "in several dimensions", including what is hidden from other characters and from the reader himself. The writer approached her own works with the same strict requirements that she placed on books as a reader. If during the first chapter the plot could not completely capture the attention, Hannah put the book aside - and therefore in her detective stories she, focusing also on the techniques of Agatha Christie, tried from the very first pages to create an intrigue, to describe a situation that at first glance seems impossible, but as you read the book it turns into the only possible one. The psychological portraits of the characters are of particular importance here - after all, it is their thoughts and actions that lead to the emergence of a riddle - and in this the queen of the detective was a real master.

Agatha Christie

And therefore, in Sophie's detectives, one cannot fail to notice the influence of Agatha Christie, or rather, the writer's desire to approach the level that the author of works about Poirot once asked. And the Belgian himself became one of Hannah's favorite characters - but no matter how she dreamed of writing a book about the continuation of the detective's adventures one day, it would be too much audacity to dare to do this. But here the case helped.

XXI century novels about Hercule Poirot

Once agent Sophie Hannah, knowing about her special attitude to the work of Agatha Christie, at his own peril and risk offered the editor of the publishing house Harper Collins one idea - to achieve the opportunity to continue Poirot's adventures. At the same time, by coincidence, the heirs of Agatha Christie came to the idea of ​​reviving the hero in new detective stories and began to look for a writer who could cope with this task. It was required not only to come up with an interesting and effective plot that would be comparable to those already created, but also to get as close as possible to the style, language of storytelling that Christie used - “clear and elegant,” as Sophie Hannah calls it.

Sophie Hanna and Matthew Pritchard

And so it happened that a British writer was commissioned to write a new book about Poirot. The corresponding agreement was signed by her and Agatha Christie's grandson Matthew Pritchard - in the same way that he recently made public the contents of his grandmother's memoirs - in the form of audiocassettes found in the attic, on which she dictated her memories. In 2014, Murders under the Monogram (in Russian translated - "Hercule Poirot and Murders under the Monogram"). Critics praised this work highly. And the readers liked it - Hannah, in full accordance with the traditions, began the story with a mysterious intriguing situation, plunging the events into a truly British atmosphere from the very first pages, with indispensable tea and restrained courtesy - which was so reminiscent of the style of Agatha Christie herself!

Murders under the Monogram opens a series of books about Poirot written in the 21st century

A completely new character has become the detective's companion, helping to investigate crimes. Neither Captain Hastings, nor Miss Lemon, nor Mrs. Oliver had a chance to appear in the new version of Poirot's adventures, the detective's new friend and narrator is Scotland Yard Inspector Catchpool, a young and promising police officer. The next book about Poirot came out two years later - it was the novel "Hercule Poirot and the box with a secret." Sophie Hannah dedicated this piece to the centenary of the first detective novel, The Mysterious Accident in Styles. The third novel - "The Mystery of Three Quarters" - was published in 2018. Currently, a new work about Hercule Poirot is being prepared for publication, most likely not the last.

In Hannah's books, the action takes place in the last century - during the time of Poirot Agatha Christie

“Writing about Poirot is a joy for me,” says Hannah, emphasizing in almost every interview that she does not dream of becoming the new Agatha Christie or even approaching the level of her skill, and most likely, it is beyond the power of anyone.

Now Sophie Hannah combines literary activity with teaching, lives with her husband and children in Cambridge and works at Lucy Cavendish College. The writer calls herself as obsessed with order as Poirot, she loves dogs, considers Mr. Brocklehurst and Aunt Reed from "Jane Eyre" Charlotte Bronte to be the main villains in world literature, and the themes that are never touched upon in her works are the death penalty and fatal ailments - especially affecting the narrator's relatives, these things Sophie Hannah considers too painful, and therefore does not write about them.

About another famous character of detectives Agatha Christie: Miss Marple.

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