Michael Bond, the Genial Gentlemen Behind Paddington Bear, Dies at 91

Plus Nelson Mandela’s prison letters will finally be published, and a new 1984 play incites shocking bodily reactions from its audience

In today’s literary roundup, Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond dies at 91, Nelson Mandela’s prison letters will be published by Liveright, and the graphic adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 isn’t going over too well with audience members. Or maybe fainting and retching is the point? Hard to say…

Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond dies at 91

The world first met Paddington Bear, the good-natured bear from Peru donning an old hat and battered suitcase, in 1958. Michael Bond, the likewise affable creator of the fictional children’s character, has died at the age of 91. The death was announced by his publisher, Harper Collins, which stated that he died of a short illness. The prolific writer published more than 200 books total, including about one Paddington book per year for the first decade of the series. The idea for the iconic character came during his last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, when he saw a forlorn plush toy laying about. He was shopping near Paddington Station, and the rest is history. He was a man of many talents and audiences; in addition to the Paddington series, Bond wrote adult books and even created an animated TV series. For many, including Bond himself, Paddington Bear was a helper through difficult times. “If I bumped into Paddington one day, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. He feels very real to me, you see,” he once told the Sunday Telegraph.

[NPR/Colin Dwyer]

Nelson Mandela’s letters from prison to be published

During his 1962–1990 imprisonment, Nelson Mandela’s lonely, confined life quickly led to a lot of letter writing. In fact, he wrote hundreds of them to family, friends, supporters, and government officials. Soon, the public will have access to these correspondences, as W.W. & Norton imprint Liveright will be publishing two versions of the letters. The first, which is scheduled for July 2018 (100 years after Mandela’s birth) will consist of facsimiles of 250 letters with a foreword written by his granddaughter; the next two-volume set, to be released in 2019, will compiled with scholars and specialists in mind. The letters, many of which have never been seen before by the public, chronicle the apartheid-era revolutionary’s experiences and feelings, including being denied attendance to both his mother and older son’s funerals. The letters are sure to illuminate his courageous and tenacious spirit — one that made him a symbol of freedom and bravery across the world.

[NY Times/John Williams]

Theater adaptation of 1984 leaves people vomiting and screaming

After the Trumpian Julius Caesar debacle, another New York City play is stirring up some controversy. 1984 premiered at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre on Thursday, an adaption of George Orwell’s acclaimed dystopian novel. It was clear from reading the book that Oceania doesn’t seem like a fun place to live, but clearly the stage version took things to the next level. During previews in London, instead of a night of leisure and enjoyment, audience members were screaming, fighting, and vomiting by the end of the performances. Like the 1949 book, the play is set in a dystopian future run by Big Brother awash with propaganda, censorship, and a good amount of torture. This particular adaptation does not downplay the graphic aspects of the novel, depicting the intense psychological and physical torture of the main character Winston Smith. Given these reactions, security guards have been posted around the building and theatergoers have been warned to leave their under-14 year olds at home because this is not for the faint of heart.

[The Washington Post/ Travis M. Andrews]

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