Macbeth – Jo Nesbø

My first introduction to the play, as work of art, was reading it. One of the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, arguably, vehemently, violent, and some would suggest, full of macabre magic. I still recall the way one of the last scenes, I could see it in all its gory detail, a swarthy, surely Scotsman, MacBeth, with a Scottish claymore strapped to his back, pulling it from behind him, and charging forward as enemy combatants move stealthy forward using the bows and branches from the forest as makeshift cover, the forest that fulfills the oracle’s suggestion that the forest comes to the castle. Or whatever the witches said.

Never saw it on stage before that cold reading. Always left me a little disturbed, and as of now, I’ve only seen one or two versions live. One, in Austin, back in the day, as good as it was? Still doesn’t deter my mind’s eye image from that first, cold reading.

Took a bit to get warmed up to this book version. However, once I got into it, the setting is sort of like Trainspotting meet the Scottish Play. Update to Scottish Seventies. Corruption. Drugs. Biker gang.

Must admit, other than at airports and bookstores, I’ve not been exposed to this author’s work. I know nothing about it. Swedish? No idea. Back of the book flap said, “Nordic.”

While I always admired the lyrical way Texan Larry McMurtry managed to get the various Texas dialects wrestled onto the pages and into the mouths of his characters, I’m not totally on board with the Scottish accent. Owing to a minor player back in a trailer park, who was from Scotland, “Scottish Steve,” I think was our nickname, other than him, I can’t say I knew much about the Scots. Invented the “claymore,” a sword that was, like, huge. Two-handed, barbarous, a tenth-century killing machine. Hadrian’s Wall? Built because even the Roman Empire couldn’t beat the Scots. All buried in myth. Still, the Scottish accent, I can’t get my mind around it, and in some portions of the book, it didn’t carry well for me. However?

“All hail Macbeth,” the sisters echoed. Page 67.

Can’t mistake the line. Or the weird sisters — cast as aged street walkers. Bit labored but carry on.

The idea for the series, each play is given to a modern author, and done in that author’s style, and in once case, setting, too. Anne Tyler in Baltimore for her version of Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl.

Margaret Atwood’s Hag Seed has stuck with me more than another other one so far. Really enjoyed that one based on The Tempest, set in a prison. sort of.

So is it a good book, worth the time, and effort?

Cover image


Macbeth – Jo Nesbø

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