The BBC is to broadcast adaptations of NW (Hamish Hamilton) by Zadie Smith and Decline and Fall (Penguin Classics) by Evelyn Waugh later this year, the BBC's Charlotte Moore, controller of TV channels and iPlayer, has announced.
Mammoth Screen, the producer of "Poldark" and "And Then There Were None", is to adapt Smith’s novel NW, while Tiger Aspect and Cave Bear will produce Decline and Fall. Both productions will air on BBC Two.
NW tells the story of Natalie and Leah, friends who grew up together in North West London, whose lives have taken them in different directions. Natalie's wealth and ambition have set her apart from the friends and family she grew up with - and she finds herself asking not only who she really is, but where she belongs. In an area where wealth and poverty are only streets apart, life is fragile - as Natalie and Leah are about to find out.
First published in 2012, Smith’s tragi-comedy was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The 90-minute drama will be adapted by Rachel Bennette.
Mammoth Screen executive producer Preethi Mavahalli said: “To call Zadie’s NW a masterpiece is no exaggeration – it is a sharp and stunning portrait of modern life. Exploring themes of migration, class and friendship against the backdrop of a perfectly-observed London, it has all the ingredients of an outstanding piece of drama”.
Smith said: "I am thrilled that the BBC is picking up NW. These are characters of the page for me and I'm very curious and excited to see them walking and talking in a fully realised world.
Simon Prosser, publishing director of Hamish Hamilton, told The Bookseller, that he "can't wait" to see Smith's "north-west Londoners leap from the page and walk through the real streets, estates and parks of NW".
He added: "Plus, it will draw attention again to one of Zadie’s most remarkable novels and bring new readers to the book."
Decline and Fall was first published in 1928. The adaptation will mark 50 years since Waugh's death in 1966, and will air in three-parts.
The production will follow the exploits of Paul Pennyfeather, whose "unfair expulsion from Oxford kick-starts a disastrous series of events, wherein he is by turn a naive teacher, a celebrity bridegroom, a wanted fugitive, and an international (and unintentional) white slave-trader - while always being, indubitably - a victim of comic misfortune".
Jessica Harrison, editor of Penguin Classics, told The Bookseller: "This year is the 50th anniversary of Waugh’s death, and a great moment to celebrate his brilliant writing. We’re delighted that the BBC will be adapting Decline and Fall – probably one of the funniest debut novels of all time."
Moore was appointed controller of TV channels and iPlayer earlier this year in a move that saw the BBC scrap the controller roles for BBC One and BBC Two. Moore was previously controller of BBC One.
NW has sold 129,390 copies for £966,728 across all editions, and Decline and Fall has shifted 59,208 for £439,878 across its 1989, 2001 and 2003 editions since Nielsen records began in 1998.