- The Prestige
"The Prestige" is a 1995 novel by British writer Christopher Priest. The novel is epistolary in structure; that is, it purports to be a collection of real diaries that were kept by the protagonists and later collated. The title derives from the novel's fictional practice of stage illusions having three parts: the setup, the performance, and the prestige (effect). [cite web |title=Christopher Priest - Future events |url=http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/christopherpriest/pres_qa.htm |last=Iffergrin |first=Don |month=October | year=2006 |accessdate=2007-03-01 - Christopher Priest states he created the terms in 1995.]
The novel received the
James Tait Black Memorial Prizefor best fiction and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
Alfred Borden and Rupert "Robbie" Angier rise to become world-renowned stage magicians. Early in their careers, they meet and a bitter feud develops as they ruin the other's acts. The frame story involves the great-grandchildren of Borden and Angier and their investigations into how their own lives have been affected by their ancestors' conflict. The events of the past are revealed primarily through each of the magicians' diaries.
Borden develops an act called "The Transported Man", and an improved version named "The New Transported Man", which appears to move him from one closed cabinet to another in the blink of an eye and without appearing to pass through the intervening space. The act seems to defy physics and puts all previous acts to shame. Over the course of the diaries we learn Alfred Borden is actually identical twin brothers, Albert and Frederick. Both men are living the life of Alfred, committed to maintaining their secret to ensure their professional success with The New Transported Man. Angier suspects that Borden uses a double but dismisses the idea when he cannot find evidence to prove it.
Unable to discern the method that Borden uses, Angier desperately tries to equal him, and with the help of the acclaimed physicist
Nikola Tesla, develops an act named "In A Flash", which has a similar result, though a starkly different method. For Angier's trick, Tesla successfully creates a device capable of teleporting a being from one place to another, but which has a surprising side-effect. As well as re-creating the subject wherever is deigned by the device, the subject is also left behind. Angier, with bitter humour, refers to these shells as 'prestiges'.
Angier's new act is equal to Borden's and Borden, in retaliation, attempts to discover how "In A Flash" is performed. During one performance he breaks into the backstage area, and turns off the power to Angier's device, though he does not discover what it does, during the act itself. As a result, the teleportation is incomplete, and both the new Angier and the old, 'prestige' Angier continue to live, though the old feels constantly weak while the new seems to have a lack of physical substance. The real Angier fakes the death of his magic act alter-ego and returns to his family estate, where he becomes terminally ill.
The clone Angier, alienated from the world by his ghostly form and realizing Borden's secret, attacks one of them before a performance. However, Borden's apparent poor health and Angier's sense of morality intervene and Angier does not carry through with the murder. It is implied that this Borden dies a few days later, and the incorporeal Angier travels to meet the corporeal Angier, now living as Lord Colderdale. They obtain Borden's diary and publish it after omitting the brothers' secret. Shortly afterwards, the corporeal Angier dies and his ghostly twin uses the device to teleport himself into the body, hoping that either he would return it back to life and be one person again or kill himself instantly. It is discovered in the final chapter that some form of Angier has continued to survive to the present day.
2006 film adaptation
A motion picture adaptation, directed by
Christopher Nolan, was released on October 20 2006in the United States. It stars Christian Baleand Hugh Jackmanas Borden and Angier respectively, as well as Michael Caine, Scarlett Johanssonand David Bowie. The novel was adapted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan.
Although the film is thematically faithful to the novel, many plot and structural changes were made, most notably the removal of a subplot involving Spiritualism and the replacement of the novel's modern-day
frame storywith Borden's wait for the gallows. Also the effect of Tesla's device is changed: the body left behind does not die, so it has to be killed every night by plunging it into a water-tank below the stage.cite news |work=Creative Screenwriting Vol. 13:5 |url=http://www.creativescreenwriting.com/index.html |last=Shewman |first=Den |date=Sept/October 2006 |title=Nothing Up Their Sleeves: Christopher & Jonathan Nolan on the Art of Magic, Murder, and The Prestige] Additionally, the complex journal-within-a-journal structure of the novel was consciously translated to the screen as a non-linear, flashback narrative set as three acts to mirror the three acts of a magic trick. [cite news |work=EmanuelLevy.com |last=Levy |first=Emanuel |title=Interview (with Christopher Nolan) |url=http://www.emanuellevy.com/article.php?articleID=3520 |date=2007-02-20 |accessdate=2007-02-26] [cite news |last=Murray |first=Rebecca |title=Behind the Scenes of "The Prestige" with Writer/Director Christopher Nolan |publisher=About, Inc. |url=http://movies.about.com/od/theprestige/a/prestigcn101606.htm |accessdate=2007-02-26] cite news |url=http://dvd.ign.com/articles/766/766063p1.html |last=Gilchrist |first=Todd |title=The Pledge, The Turn, The Prestige, The DVD |publisher=IGN |date=2007-02-20 |accessdate=2007-02-26]
The novel (ISBN 0-575-07580-5) was published by Gollancz.
References and notes
* [http://www.christopher-priest.co.uk/ Christopher Priest's website]
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