I’m terrible at Christmas shopping. I went into town yesterday to buy two presents: a book and a DVD. And ended up coming back with more purchases for myself than presents.
In Waterstone’s, I bought the paperback I’d picked out as a present… and then bought myself two books. While browsing, I spotted The Muqaddimah by ibn Khaldun – one of the great mediaeval Arabic books mentioned in The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature – and couldn’t resist buying it. I also picked up The Middle East by Bernard Lewis because I wanted to put the classical Arabic literature I’d read about in historical context.
In HMV, I bought the DVD I’d picked out as a present… but couldn’t resist Fortunes of War, the 1987 BBC adaptation of Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy (see below). I’ve now watched the first two episodes and… Kenneth Brannagh as Guy Pringle and Emma Thompson as Harriet Pringle are pretty much as I’d imagined them. But the other characters don’t really fit the mental images I’d built up when reading the book. This is not all that uncommon when watching a film or television adaptation of a book you’ve read – David Lynch’s Dune anyone? But it does take some getting used to. And then there are the chunks missing from the plot – Fortunes of War is based on both The Balkan Trilogy and its sequel, The Levant Trilogy. That’s a lot to get through in six hour-long episodes. Well, a book per episode, in fact. Anyway, four episodes to go – Um, just thought: I may have to read The Levant Trilogy before I can watch the last three episodes… Damn.