Riddley Walker

Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Afterword by Dr Rowan Williams

Limited to 1,000 copies each numbered and signed by Quentin Blake

Russell Hoban’s genre-defying masterpiece with a new essay by Quentin Blake and a specially-commissioned postscript by Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

CA$590.00
CA$590.00

Riddley Walker is Russell Hoban’s genre-defying masterpiece set in post-apocalyptic Kent, in an England in the grip of a second Iron Age, and written in ’Riddleyspeak’ a fractured phonetic version of English. This limited edition combines the extraordinary text with large-scale illustrations by Quentin Blake. Also included are an essay by Blake and a specially-commissioned postscript by Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Production Details

Limited to 1,000 numbered copies each signed and numbered by Quentin Blake on a tipped-in limitation page, printed letterpress on Hahnemühle Bugra Bütten laid paper

288 pages set in Poliphilus and Blado type, with hand-drawn titling
Printed in full colour on Woodstock Betulla paper, with 39 illustrations by Quentin Blake
Bound in full cloth, printed with a design by the artist
Featuring printed page edges
Spine blocked in foil printed with a design by the artist
Presented in a cloth-covered slipcase
14″ × 10″

Russell Hoban’s 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’ 

  1. Russell Hoban

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.

Riddleyspeak

During the five-and-a-half years Hoban spent writing Riddley Walker, he restarted it over a dozen times and even discarded a complete 500-page version of the book to begin again from page 1. As he wrote, he found the text slipping from standard English into the book’s most distinctive, and most rewarding feature – ’Riddleyspeak’ – a fractured, phonetic version of English, where words have worn down and broken apart to develop multiple meanings. The effect is to slow the reader to an ’Iron Age’ pace of thinking, drawing us into a world where everything is symbolic and open to reinterpretation, and forcing us into the same position as Riddley himself, as he struggles to understand what is happening to him. As Hoban put it, his goal was to produce ’fruitful confusion’ rather than ’sterile clarity’.

’Riddleyspeak’ is further explained in Hoban’s ’Afterword’, ’Notes’ and ’Glossary’, all included in this ultimate edition.

Illustrations by Quentin Blake

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.

Writing on Riddley Walker

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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