A Folio Society limited edition
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Postscript by Dr Rowan Williams
Russell Hoban’s genre-defying masterpiece.
Russell Hoban (1925–2011) was an American novelist who lived in England
for much of his working life, producing a series of strikingly individual novels.
Riddley Walker is his genre-defying masterpiece, a free-wheeling road-novel set in post-apocalyptic Kent, 2,500 years after a nuclear catastrophe has plunged England back into a second Iron Age. The survivors huddle in fenced settlements, packs of killer dogs roam the countryside and the rudimentary government communicates its policies through travelling puppet shows that fuse Punch and Judy, the medieval myth of St Eustace, elements of the New Testament and garbled memories of the technology that brought about the nuclear holocaust. This is a world where the ruins of Canterbury Cathedral are misinterpreted as the remains of a power station, and a postnuclear mutant incarnation of the Archbishop might just know the secret of nuclear fission.
Walker is my name and I am the same. Riddley Walker. Walking my riddels where ever theyve took me and walking them now on this paper the same.
The book covers ten days in the life of Riddley Walker, already an adult at the age of twelve, as he finds himself drawn into the authorities’ desperate attempts to rediscover the secrets of technologies of long ago, recover the knowledge of how to split the atom and relive the longed-for glories of a lost past. Along the way Riddley finds himself grappling with huge ideas: what it means to be conscious, the struggle to become literate and the burden of being a writer, the nature of reality, and the tension between humanity’s urge towards self-expression and self-destruction. As it approaches its fortieth anniversary, Riddley Walker is as fresh and challenging as ever – a book that feels as though it was written both in the distant past and also far in the future, that remains timely and timeless.
‘Yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let’s look at him again’
Russell Hoban always joked that death would be his best career move, and would finally help establish him as more than a ‘cult author’. This edition of his greatest work is the perfect place to start that reassessment.
This unique illustrated edition combines Hoban’s extraordinary text with newly-commissioned large-scale illustrations by his long-term collaborator Quentin Blake. This is the culmination of a partnership that started over four decades ago with the anarchic How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen and lasted all the way to Hoban’s final fable, Rosie’s Magic Horse, completed shortly before his death in 2011. But Blake has abandoned his characteristic life-affirming, humour-filled action scenes, focusing instead on Riddley Walker’s threatening mood and rain-drenched atmosphere. The result is a series of brooding images: tiny figures crossing devastated landscapes, an eyeless and noseless post-nuclear mutant, the impaled head of a boar, the sinister figure of Mr Punch, the sprawled body of a torture victim … Coarse, quill-drawn figures reminiscent of prehistoric graffiti are enhanced by splodgy watercolour washes, to produce illustrations that seem to be mouldering before your eyes.
This new limited edition includes ‘Acknowledgements’, ‘Afterword’, ‘Notes’ and
‘Glossary’ by Russell Hoban. Quentin Blake has contributed a new essay ‘Draw is a
intersting word’ and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has
written a specially commissioned postscript ‘Myth and “knowledging” in Riddley Walker’.
Also included is a full-page colour image of The Legend of St Eustace, as reconstructed by Professor E. W. Tristram from the fifteenth-century wall painting in the north choir aisle of Canterbury Cathedral, and reproduced by permission of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
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