AuthorsFrom the Wire

Bohemian Rhapsody: PW Talks with Anne Eekhout

In Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein, Dutch novelist Anne Eekhout delves into the captivating life of Mary Shelley, the brilliant mind behind the world’s first science fiction novel. Eekhout explores not only Shelley’s literary achievements but also her personal struggles as a bereaved teenage mother and her involvement in polyamorous relationships. Through her research, Eekhout uncovers the complex background that influenced Shelley’s iconic work, shedding light on the intersections of race, class, and society in the 19th century. This intriguing interview with Eekhout provides a glimpse into the extraordinary life and creative inspiration of Mary Shelley.

Bohemian Rhapsody: PW Talks with Anne Eekhout

Bohemian Rhapsody: PW Talks with Anne Eekhout

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Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein

In her novel Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein, Dutch novelist Anne Eekhout explores the complicated background of Mary Shelley, the iconic author of the world’s first science fiction novel. Eekhout is drawn to Shelley’s story because it goes beyond being just a horror tale or a science fiction story; it delves into the social issues of the time, such as racism and class. At the age of 18, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a remarkable achievement for a young woman in the early 19th century. Eekhout was intrigued by the question of how much of Shelley’s personal background influenced her iconic work.

The Complicated Background of a Horror Legend

Mary Shelley’s personal history is filled with tragedy and unconventional relationships. Her mother passed away shortly after giving birth to her, and Shelley always carried a sense of guilt about that. At a young age, she became involved with Percy Shelley, who was already married with children but held firm beliefs in free love. At the age of 17, Mary became pregnant and tragically lost her child after just a few weeks. These experiences undoubtedly shaped her worldview and contributed to the emotional depth found in her writing.

Bohemian Rhapsody: PW Talks with Anne Eekhout

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What Compelled Anne Eekhout about Mary Shelley

Anne Eekhout was particularly drawn to Mary Shelley’s unique circumstances and her ability to create a groundbreaking novel at such a young age. Shelley’s personal tragedies, her unconventional relationship with Percy Shelley, and her intense experiences in Scotland all provided Eekhout with a rich source of inspiration for her own story. Eekhout wanted to explore the complexities of Shelley’s life and how they influenced her creation of the iconic novel Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley’s Background and the Seed for the Book

Mary Shelley’s background is marked by loss and unconventional relationships. The death of her mother shortly after her birth had a lasting impact on Shelley, leading to a sense of guilt that she carried with her throughout her life. Her involvement with Percy Shelley, a married man, and their polyamorous beliefs challenged societal norms of the time. These personal experiences undoubtedly contributed to the profound themes and emotions found in Frankenstein.

Bohemian Rhapsody: PW Talks with Anne Eekhout

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The Relationship Between Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley

Mary and Percy Shelley’s relationship was unconventional and fraught with challenges. Percy was already married to a woman named Harriet when he met Mary at a young age. Despite this, the couple believed in free love and engaged in a polyamorous lifestyle. Mary became pregnant at a young age, but tragically lost her child shortly after birth. These experiences tested their relationship, but they remained committed to each other and their art.

The Importance of Mary Shelley’s Time in Scotland

Before meeting Percy Shelley, Mary spent two summers in Dundee, Scotland, with the Baxter family. It was during this time that she formed a close bond with Isabella Baxter, which some biographers believe may have been a romantic love. This relationship played a significant role in Eekhout’s novel, as Mary herself remarked that her time in Scotland was crucial in awakening her imagination. The rich mythology and landscape of Scotland undoubtedly influenced Shelley’s writing and laid the foundation for her iconic novel.

The Men Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley Spent the Summer with in 1816

In the summer of 1816, Mary and Percy Shelley spent time in Geneva with the infamous Lord Byron and John William Polidori. These men were known for their bohemian lifestyles and rejection of monogamy. They indulged in substances like laudanum, which contained opium, to aid their creative processes. Mary and Lord Byron maintained a lasting friendship, and he recognized her literary talent, even in a time when women’s voices were often dismissed. The influence of these remarkable individuals undoubtedly shaped Mary Shelley’s literary career.

The Recognition Mary Shelley Deserves

Anne Eekhout believes that Mary Shelley deserves more recognition for her contributions to literature. Shelley’s groundbreaking novel Frankenstein is often cited as the first science fiction novel, a genre that has grown immensely since its publication. Eekhout firmly believes that Shelley’s work should be celebrated for its innovation and its exploration of complex themes. Shelley’s ability to challenge societal norms and create a layered narrative deserves greater appreciation and acknowledgment.

Translating Eekhout’s Work from Dutch to English

As a Dutch author, Anne Eekhout initially wrote her novel in her native language. However, with the help of translator Laura Watkinson, her work was successfully translated into English. Eekhout acknowledges the immense skill and dedication required to faithfully translate a novel, ensuring that the essence and spirit of the original work are captured. Seeing her own story in a different language has added a new dimension to Eekhout’s work and allows a wider audience to engage with her narrative.