About the Collaboration
In 1818, Mary Shelley published her groundbreaking novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. To celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Shelley’s masterpiece of fiction, in 2018 writer Tommy Zurhellen and painter Hyeseung Marriage-Song have created a truly unique artistic collaboration that combines elements of storytelling, visual art, folklore and history. The goal of FRANKENSTEIN: KONFIDENTIAL is to both honor the original and create new, engaging ways to refresh the universal themes of Shelley’s work that are still so vital today.
THE STORY of FRANKENSTEIN: KONFIDENTIAL places the original structure and characters of Shelley’s original masterpiece into a new historical framework: Nazi Germany during the final months of World War II. The narrative opens much like the original: a mysterious letter from American Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret. The story is told in serial form, with twenty-four individual episodes rolled out online each week until the thrilling conclusion.
THE PAINTINGS created in the past ten months by Hyeseung Marriage-Song, inspired by FRANKENSTEIN: KONFIDENTIAL and Shelley’s original text, sieve the age-old myth of the golem through a secular humanistic philosophy into the 21st century. Not a straight illustration of Tommy Zurhellen’s fast-moving and enthralling plot, the paintings rather comprise psychological character studies developed in a fragmented and dynamic visual idiom, to mirror the unsettled and constantly resolving human condition in which every human is a little god, a little monster.
More on the Original
How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?
-- Mary Shelley
The story of the writing of Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus is almost as well known as the novel itself: in 1815, Mary Shelley and her lover (and later husband) Percy Shelley visited their friend and fellow writer Lord Byron at Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Mary was only eighteen at the time. The weather was cold and dreary so the party spent most of its time indoors by the fire, trying to stave off boredom as much as the cold. They read aloud ghost stories from the French book Phantasmagoria until Byron proposed a contest: everyone would come up with their own ghostly tale, with a winner chosen as the most frightening. A few days later with no idea what to write for the contest, Mary had what she called a “waking dream” about the reanimation of a corpse. What started out as a short story became her masterpiece. Mary Shelley completed the manuscript in 1817 and it was published anonymously in January of 1818.
What makes Shelley’s original tale so enthralling and so frightening at the same time is the nature of the monster, who is never given a name. The character of Victor Frankenstein has been given the power to create life, but he is foolish enough to believe he can control that life, as a God would. It is a unique study of what makes us human, and what makes us worship our own Gods.
These themes of Mary Shelley’s original masterpiece are obviously still relevant today; since its original publication in 1818, the story of Frankenstein has been reimagined in countless films, novels, dramatic plays and graphic novels.
We recommend reading the original before reading FRANKENSTEIN: KONFIDENTIAL. To read Mary Shelley’s original online for free, visit Project Gutenberg here.
More Interesting Things To Read About Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”
"The Strange and Twisted Life of 'Frankenstein'" by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker Magazine, February 12 & 19 Issue.
What Other People Are Saying About Tommy and Hyeseung’s Collaboration (will be updated as things progress)
"I really should say something Romantic or even Post-Modern about Tommy Zurhellen’s new monster of a book, Frankenstein: Konfidential, how it undoes all the splices and sutures of its urtext with his usual tenderness and tenacity. But Tommy Zurhellen is much more than this mad and madcap surgeon, his pen a sure scalpel. He was a sailor once and still, and I think of him, in all of his vast work, as a kind of literary Odysseus, strapped to the mast, navigating the archipelagoes of story, the lyric atolls of texts while being always bright-eyed, far-seeing, and never at a loss—the boatswain mate of many a bookish frigate. And, fearless, the seductive siren song constant in his hearing, he is always always, no matter how fantastic (in all the senses of that word), deeply human, driven happily homeward to the heart of things. With the truest aim he is always true to himself and true too to all the hundreds of hybrids that spring, parthenogenetically, from his big bountiful beautiful brain."
– Michael Martone, author of MICHAEL MARTONE and BROODING