Daniel Defoe died three centuries ago. Yet, in December 2003, at a Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, the world listened to him musing on Robinson Crusoe's later career. The voice and imagination were those of J.M. Coetzee, who co-opted the earlier author and his creation for his enigmatic acceptance speech. Those familiar with Coetzee's oeuvre realised that this allegory of language and representation harked back to his fourth novel, Foe.
That may be the most unusual case of an author borrowing another author's character, but it's by no means the only one. The best-known examples are those of Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson, with everyone from Michael Dibdin to Michael Chabon having a go. British novelist Jasper Fforde has even made something of a career by populating his novels with characters from Conan Doyle, Dickens and Bronte — to name a few — in his series featuring the "literary detective", Thursday Next.
That this is something that can be taken too far is evident from the manyRead More »from When Authors Borrow Characters