Russell Hoban (1925-2011)

Russell Hoban, author of Riddley Walker, died December 13 at the age of 86. John Clute, in The Guardian, characterizes that respected novel as follows:

Riddley Walker [is] the work that established his extremely high reputation as a deeply original novelist. It is an enormously eloquent and demanding science-fiction tale set in the UK perhaps three millennia after a nuclear war has ended civilisation. The survivors inhabit what is often referred to by science-fiction critics as a “ruined earth”, a ravaged, resource-poor, constantly threatened world whose inhabitants are unlikely to be literate, or long-lived.

It is a difficult world to portray, except sentimentally, or in terms of Grand Guignol. Hoban solves this problem by having his young protagonist tell his story, in his own words. The astonishment is in the words, a deeply ingenious and poetic representation of what English might actually sound like in such a world. The first sentence of the book has become famous: “On my naming day when I come 12 I to gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long before him nor I aint looking to see none agen.” By the end of this novel the attentive reader dreams in that tongue.

Riddley Walker won the 1982 Campbell Memorial Award and 1983 Ditmar Award, and received a nomination for the 1982 Nebula (losing to Gene Wolfe’s Claw of the Conciliator.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

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