Books of the year 2011: Daniel Swift

The Tragedy of Arthur - Arthur Phillips

 

The two best works of literary criticism about Shakespeare published this year also both happen to be novels and they are my books of the year. Arthur Phillips's The Tragedy of Arthur (Duckworth, £16.99) is a fake Shakespeare play packaged as a scholarly edition with a lengthy introduction that turns into a novella. It sounds complicated but is intelligent and insightful and has an almost uncanny ear for how Shakespeare sounds.

Chris Adrian's The Great Night (Granta Books, £16.99) is a dazzling reimagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream, transplanted to San Francisco and in the more-or-less present day. Both of these are fine novels but they are also - intimidatingly, generously - great works of literary criticism, teaching us to look anew at Shakespeare.

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