Reading lists

Books you didn’t know were based on other famous books

From Zadie Smith to J. M. Coetzee to Jane Smiley, there are many great authors who have retold or paid homage to a classic to say something new. 

Image: Mica Murphy / Penguin
Image: Mica Murphy / Penguin

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal,” once wrote T. S. Eliot, before qualifying: “bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

The same could be said of all writing. In fact, ask any author and they'll freely reel off a list of books that inspired their latest work. But sometimes great writers don't just look for inspiration in their favourite novels, but retell them to create something new.

Whether that's to imagine what happened next, fill in a mysterious gap in the story or re-spin a classic tale into an allegory for modern life, some of the most famous novels ever written are based on other novels. Here's a selection of the best.

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