Posthumous authorship
August 29, 2005 8:25 PM   Subscribe

James Agee's A Death in the Family was complete posthumously by a friend. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible was completed posthumously by his cohorts. Mozart's Requiem was completed posthumously by his contemporaries. Help me brainstorm other incomplete works finished by others after the author/composer/creator died.
posted by RockyChrysler to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Raymond Chandler's Poodle Springs, completed by Robert B. Parker.
posted by bac at 8:31 PM on August 29, 2005

The wikipedia entry for the word posthumous has a few good examples, notably Tolkien's Silmarillion [finished by his son] and Beckett's Elutheria [translated and published posthumously by his agent]. Also Thomas Wolfe's A Note on Experts: Dexter Vespasian Joyner and Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2005

The six bazillion Tupac Shakur songs that have been completed & released posthumously.
posted by cmonkey at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2005

Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood
was a serialized mystery story, interrupted by the author's death. Various people have written their own endings for it, I believe.

Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger was completed, controversially, after his death by his literary executor, Albert Bigelow Paine.
posted by LarryC at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2005

It was my understanding that Hayduke Lives! was finished by Edward Abbey's son.
posted by pwb503 at 8:41 PM on August 29, 2005

jessamyn >>> "The wikipedia entry for the word posthumous has a few good examples, notably Tolkien's Silmarillion [finished by his son]"

His son and Guy Gavriel Kay, to be precise :)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:47 PM on August 29, 2005

Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon

Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut
posted by matteo at 9:19 PM on August 29, 2005

Don't Forget Kubrick's AI.
posted by puke & cry at 9:29 PM on August 29, 2005

Elliott Smith's From a Basement on a Hill.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:34 PM on August 29, 2005

I always heard that The Last Tycoon was published as Fitzgerald left it, unfinished. Hemingway's son heavily edited the manuscript for True At First Light before publishing it in 1999.
posted by mediareport at 9:45 PM on August 29, 2005

Jaroslav Hasek died before finishing his Good Soldier Svejk but the ending was tidied up some by a friend. So that qualifies.
posted by Kattullus at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2005

Didn't the remaining Beatles finish a song by John Lennon recently?
posted by hootch at 9:59 PM on August 29, 2005

Alexander Borodin's opera, Prince Igor, was left unfinished at his death and completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. Actually, Borodin had a habit of not finishing things while he was alive as well, so those two had a hand in many of his works. Prince Igor contains the well-known Polovetsian Dances, now best-known as the source for the melody of the song Stranger in Paradise, from the musical Kismet. His third symphony, which seems to get a fair amount of play on classical radio, was also left incomplete at his death and completed posthumously by Glazunov.

Modest Mussourgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, which you may remember from Fantasia, received a posthumous polishing into the form we know today by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Several recordings of Mahler's "10th symphony" are available, even though he produced only "a work fully prepared in the sketch" before succumbing to the "nine-symphony curse" in 1911. Sadly, Mahler was not around to revise, polish, and orchestrate the sketch, but several musicians have since prepared performance versions from the existing material, most notably Deryck Cooke.

Similarly, Anthony Payne posthumously elaborated the sketches English composer Edward Elgar (of Pomp and Circumstance and Enigma Variations fame) left for a third symphony, and several recordings exist today.

A number of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural designs have been constructed posthumously, although the actual designs are still his. John Roebling died 14 years before the Brooklyn Bridge, his brainchild, was completed.
posted by musicinmybrain at 10:07 PM on August 29, 2005

hootch, you're thinking of "Free As A Bird", as heard on Volume 1 of "The Beatles Anthology."

and bac, I was actually coming here to post Poodle Springs, thinking no one would have heard of it!
posted by Vidiot at 10:20 PM on August 29, 2005

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still unfinished. Antoni Gaudi was not the original architect; he took over in 1884, and was killed by a streetcar in 1926. Since 1940, three more architects have carried on the work.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:37 PM on August 29, 2005

Following on from musicinmybrain's post - Franz Schubert was another famous for leaving his works incomplete (not just his "Unfinished" 8th Symphony).

Brian Newbould has "finished" many of Schubert's works (he prefers to call them "realisations").

See also his book on Schubert and his bio at The Schubert Institute.
posted by bright cold day at 10:38 PM on August 29, 2005

Jane Austen wrote twelve chapters of Sanditon before she died, and several writers have completed it. I read one of these completed versions 10 years ago, but can not recall the author's name.
posted by PY at 10:45 PM on August 29, 2005

I hear tell that The Diary of Anne Frank was actually modified pretty extensively by her father before it saw publication.
posted by Clay201 at 10:52 PM on August 29, 2005

Veering slightly off-topic, Natalie Wood was not the composer, author, nor creator, but was certainly the star of Brainstorm,
an interesting 1983 sci-fi film by Douglas Trumbull. When Wood passed away untimely, Trumbull substituted her sister, Lana Wood.
posted by Lynsey at 10:59 PM on August 29, 2005

Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright was finished by his wife and daughter.
Prison by Steven Jesse Bernstein was completed by producer Steve Fisk after Bernstein's suicide.
posted by black8 at 11:09 PM on August 29, 2005

Continuing Lynsey's semi-tangent, there's Bela Lugosi in the infamous movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. From the Wikipedia article:

Actors screw up their lines—Wood did not have time for retakes—night turns to day and back in a single scene, and the movie's best-known guest-star is an actor who died early in the filming (Bela Lugosi). Lugosi appears in a few silent scenes in the beginning and middle of the movie, one of which is repeated during the film. Later in the film, Lugosi's character is portrayed by a taller, younger, blond-haired man: Kathy Wood's (Ed Wood's wife) chiropractor Dr. Tom Mason (who helped finance the film) holding a cape over his face.
But I sense this is not the sort of masterwork you're looking for.
posted by musicinmybrain at 11:11 PM on August 29, 2005

I have one in each of three categories:
• Music -- Turandot, opera left unfinished by Giacomo Puccini at his death in 1924. The opera features two killer roles, for soprano and tenor, and includes the famous aria "Nessun dorma" (roughly, "Ain't nobody snoozin'"). The completed version most commonly performed is by Franco Alfano.
• Literature -- Woyzeck, play by Georg Büchner, who left three drafts at his death in 1837. It was based on a well-known actual event, and has been completed by a number of authors. Perhaps because of its fragmentary nature, it is sometimes considered the first piece of Expressionist theater. It has also been adapted into other media, the most famous of which is Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck. Both the play and the opera are considered masterpieces.
• Architecture -- The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the seat of the Episcopal Church in New York City. The original Byzantine-Romanesque design of the cathedral, which was begun in 1892, was interrupted at the death of one of the designers. A second firm was hired to continue, but the church's design was changed to a Gothic style. Construction was halted by WWII, and although work resumed in the 1970s and continues today, it is uncertain when it will be finished. At 600-plus feet in length, St. John the Divine is one of the largest churches in the world.
posted by rob511 at 11:13 PM on August 29, 2005

Kinji Fukasaku died while directing Battle Royale II.
posted by bobo123 at 11:18 PM on August 29, 2005

Alan Watts Tao The Watercourse Way was finished by Al Chung-liang Huang.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:10 AM on August 30, 2005

We'll never know for sure, but there's at the least the possibility that Shakespeare's Macbeth and Timon of Athens were finished off (or at least revised extensively) after his death, probably by Thomas Middleton.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:35 AM on August 30, 2005

Here is what will likely be the oldest work you get: Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia. Sidney finished his first Arcadia in 1580 and then began rewriting it as The New Arcadia, which was to be a substantial revision. He completed about half, but then died in 1586, leaving his work ending abruptly in the middle of a fight scene and a sentence. When it was published in 1590, the public clamored for a conclusion. Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke, appended text from the old (unpublished) Arcadia to the end of the new Arcadia, made some edits, and had Sir William Alexander write about 30 pages of bridging passages.

The new Arcadia is an amazingly rich but neglected work. It's a shame Sidney never finished it. I love it to pieces.
posted by painquale at 1:29 AM on August 30, 2005

Aubrey Beardsley abandoned his novel Under The Hill mid-sentence. A ‘completed’ version was later published, having been continued by John Glassco.
posted by misteraitch at 3:39 AM on August 30, 2005

I'm actually surprised that no one brought up John Kennedy Toole's posthumous Pulitzer Prize winning novel "A Confederacy of Dunces".

After the author's suicide, the mother takes the novel to Walker Percy, who then champions the novel, gets it published by Louisiana State University Press, much acclaim, yadda yadda, Pulitzer Prize.

The only contention is just how much of a hand Percy had in rewriting/editing the novel.

In my overly romantic and tragic mind, he didn't touch it, but yeah, that's pretty unrealistic.
posted by willmize at 3:41 AM on August 30, 2005

I'm actually surprised that no one brought up John Kennedy Toole's posthumous Pulitzer Prize winning novel "A Confederacy of Dunces".

An excellent book, by the way. I'm surprised I forgot about that one too.
posted by musicinmybrain at 4:09 AM on August 30, 2005

Somebody actually put together what they claimed would have been Beethoven's 10th Symphony from his sketchbooks. I don't think it has been too widely accepted, however I think there is one recording of it.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:22 AM on August 30, 2005

Charles Bukowski has published a few things posthumously, including the recent, Slouching Toward Nirvana. All of them show the hand of his longtime editor, John Martin.
posted by box at 6:35 AM on August 30, 2005

great thread, everyone. thanks very much for your thoughtful responses!
posted by RockyChrysler at 6:48 AM on August 30, 2005

Bartok Viola Concerto

Mahler 10th

Bruckner "0" and 10th

Many fragmentary Schubert songs, completed, or accompaniment created, for the Hyperion complete edition

The final fugue of Bach's Art of Fugue -- many more or less unsatisfactory attempts

Elgar Symphony # 3
posted by KRS at 7:51 AM on August 30, 2005

Ferdinand de Saussure's seminal Course in General Linguistics was published posthumously by two of his students, who reconstructed it from their lecture notes.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:44 AM on August 30, 2005

Stephen Morris by Nevil Shute. After he died, this book was assembled from his earliest manuscripts. (Yes, I know nobody reads him anymore, but you should! Known as The Supreme Storyteller, in his day.)
posted by Rash at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2005

Modern Quantum Mechanics by J J Sakurai

Manuale Tipografico by Giambattista Bodoni

The Crow and Game of Death. The stars died during shooting -- Brandon Lee and Bruce Lee, respectively. In the former case, they used doubles and CGI to cover it up.
posted by springload at 9:22 AM on August 30, 2005

George Harrison's son, Dhani, and Jeff Lynne completed his final album, Brainwashed, a year after his death.

Bob Marley and the Wailers' Confrontation was released two years after his death, with Lee Perry contributing to a few of the tracks (you can hear a greater number of synthesizers).

Throw in the thousands of 2pac and Biggie releases, as well as Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Warren Zevon and others... posthumous releases are pretty popular right now.
posted by Steve Simpson at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2005

Jeff Buckley's double album, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk.
posted by sugarfish at 11:19 AM on August 30, 2005

ralph ellison's juneteenth, which i think was an excerpt or excerpts from a larger volume that he was working on for 30-some years before he died.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 2:31 PM on August 30, 2005

Dorothy L. Sayers's Thrones, Dominations by the crappy writer Jill Paton-Walsh.

[invective and expletives deleted]
posted by eilatan at 6:20 PM on August 30, 2005

Here is what will likely be the oldest work you get: Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.

Unless you count Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which were unfinished at the time of his deat,h and whose fragments were organized by his friends and executors into the collections that got handed down to us. I think that qualifies as a somewhat "posthumously finished" work.
posted by mediareport at 7:27 PM on August 30, 2005

Gareth Evans´s philosophical work Varieties of Reference was completed by John McDowell.
posted by painquale at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2005

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