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Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
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Riddley Walker (original 1980; edition 1992)

by Russell Hoban (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1322112,459 (4.22)161
"A hero with Huck Finn's heart and charm, lighting by El Greco and jokes by Punch and Judy.... Riddley Walker is haunting and fiercely imagined and--this matters most--intensely ponderable." --Benjamin DeMott, The New York Times Book Review "This is what literature is meant to be." --Anthony Burgess "Russell Hoban has brought off an extraordinary feat of imagination and style.... The conviction and consistency are total. Funny, terrible, haunting and unsettling, this book is a masterpiece." --Anthony Thwaite, Observer "Extraordinary... Suffused with melancholy and wonder, beautifully written, Riddley Walker is a novel that people will be reading for a long, long time." --Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World "Stunning, delicious, designed to prevent the modern reader from becoming stupid." --John Leonard, The New York Times "Highly enjoyable... An intriguing plot... Ferociously inventive." --Walter Clemons, Newsweek "Astounding... Hoban's soaring flight of imagination is that golden rarity, a dazzlingly realized work of genius." --Jane Clapperton, Cosmopolitan "An imaginative intensity that is rare in contemporary fiction.' --Paul Gray, Time Riddley Walker is a brilliant, unique, completely realized work of fiction. One reads it again and again, discovering new wonders every time through. Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state--and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture--rebel, change agent, and artist. Read again or for the first time this masterpiece of 20th-century literature with new material by the author.… (more)
Member:tkenney426
Title:Riddley Walker
Authors:Russell Hoban (Author)
Info:A Touchstone Book Published by Simon & Schuster
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, British, twentieth-century, science-fiction, post-apocalyptic, linguistics, invented languages

Work details

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Author) (1980)

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» See also 161 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
An amazing book. It’s written entirely in a fairly dense, invented dialect, and thick with symbolism, so it took some effort. But it was very rewarding and I’ve been thinking on it a lot since I finished it a few days ago. I gather that some editions have glossaries and explanatory notes, but mine does not. I did find this comprehensive set of annotations online, with contributions by the author, after I finished it. I’m glad I only saw it after I was done.

Here’s the first paragraph:

"On my naming day when I come 12 I 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 time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, 'Your tern now my tern later.' The other spears gone in then and he wer dead and the steam coming up off him in the rain and we all yelt, 'Offert!'”

Harold Bloom put it on his canon long-list. ( )
  k6gst | Feb 12, 2020 |
This book is written in not just the "voice" but the spelling and language of a boy growing up in a unique, apparently post-apocalyptic culture in the region around what in our world is Canterbury in England. It is very cleverly done, and develops the culture and mythology of the culture very effectively, but I find it too depressing to enjoy reading. ( )
  antiquary | Dec 23, 2017 |
I have just finished reading the Folio Society Limited edition of Riddley Walker.
The post-apocalyptic theme is a common one in science fiction, but in Riddley Walker, it is approached in a unique way as it uses the language of the 44th. century rather than our own.
As a result, it is not a fast book to read, but you soon get used to the new words and altered definitions of known words. Just let your eyes flow across the words and the meaning seems to become clear. Checking the glossary at the end of the book would have helped, but I only found this after I had finished.
To describe it as a nitty-gritty version of the dystopian future is a gross understatement. The rough edges grate on your consciousness, and as a result it is probably a far more realistic version of this possible future than that portrayed by the more dramatic authors of the genre.
The FS edition is superb with its dark moody textural cover (and page edge washes), heavy paper and large type (helps ion reading the strange dialect). The illustrations by Quentin Blake perfectly fit the dialogue, and are at exactly the right place in the text.
A book that I will remember for a long time, and this edition is highly recommended. ( )
  wcarter | May 7, 2017 |
The tale itself is a short and slender one, but the way its told is an extraordinary literary achievement. The events of the book take place thousands of years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, and humans are living in a kind of Iron Age, dimly aware that mankind was once much greater, and trying to puzzle out the connections between that lost world and their own mucky one. The author immerses you in the look, feel and smell of this place. What is extraordinary is, the entire story is written in the dialect of the time--a kind of smashed English in which words have been broken and put back together many times, like bones that have been fractured and imperfectly set by someone over and over. Some of it will come to you from sounding the words phonetically, and some will come from repetition of the same phrases in different contexts. The hardest part for me were proper and place names-- I'm not overly familiar with the geography or proper names of England, which is where the story takes place. ( I had to look in the glossary to find out "rizlas" were cigarette papers.) The constant repetition wore me down after awhile, and sometimes it seemed like nothing was happening, the characters were just turning things over (and over and over) in their heads. Something truly momentous occurs at the end of chapter 16, and that was an "Aha!" moment for me. There were two Afterwords, a glossary and some notes at the end, and I might have had an easier time if I'd read them first, but I'm kind of glad I muddled through on my own. I will read it again now, and I'm sure I''ll pick up on things I missed the first time. Because the story is told first person by the title character, you really get to know him well and care about him--not so much the other characters. Strangely enough, the only secondary character I really felt anything for was a dog. This isn't an easy book to get through, but well worth the effort as I've never read anything like it. ( )
1 vote unclebob53703 | Nov 2, 2016 |
I re-read this book, which I first read in Britain twenty-five years before, at the same time as I was re-reading William Golding's The Inheritors, both of which I decided to re-read after reading Ronald Wright's A Short History of Progress. That's because, taken together they form a set of bookends around the long march of human aggression and stupidity, from its (imagined) earliest beginnings to its (potentially) last stages. Not much hope there, at either end. The awareness of our dark nature that authors like these can so vividly provide us hasn’t saved us from ourselves yet. On the other hand, we haven't gone under for the last time yet, either. ( )
  CSRodgers | Aug 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hoban, RussellAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gary, Kelli M.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richard, NicolasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Self, WillIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Jesus has said:
Blessed is the lion that
the man will devour, and the lion
will become man. And loathsome is the
man that the lion will devour,
and the lion will become man.

Gospel of Thomas, Logion 7
Translated by George Ogg
Dedication
To Wieland
First words
On my naming day when I come 12 I 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 time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.
Quotations
O what we ben! And what we come to!
(p. 100)
Im so old you know my memberment is mosly gone I jus have bits of this and that in my head like meat and vedgerbels in a stew Im jus a old stew head is all I am.
(p. 149)
I dont have nothing only words to put down on paper. Its so hard. Some times theres mor in the emty paper nor there is when you get the writing down on it.
(p. 158)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

"A hero with Huck Finn's heart and charm, lighting by El Greco and jokes by Punch and Judy.... Riddley Walker is haunting and fiercely imagined and--this matters most--intensely ponderable." --Benjamin DeMott, The New York Times Book Review "This is what literature is meant to be." --Anthony Burgess "Russell Hoban has brought off an extraordinary feat of imagination and style.... The conviction and consistency are total. Funny, terrible, haunting and unsettling, this book is a masterpiece." --Anthony Thwaite, Observer "Extraordinary... Suffused with melancholy and wonder, beautifully written, Riddley Walker is a novel that people will be reading for a long, long time." --Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World "Stunning, delicious, designed to prevent the modern reader from becoming stupid." --John Leonard, The New York Times "Highly enjoyable... An intriguing plot... Ferociously inventive." --Walter Clemons, Newsweek "Astounding... Hoban's soaring flight of imagination is that golden rarity, a dazzlingly realized work of genius." --Jane Clapperton, Cosmopolitan "An imaginative intensity that is rare in contemporary fiction.' --Paul Gray, Time Riddley Walker is a brilliant, unique, completely realized work of fiction. One reads it again and again, discovering new wonders every time through. Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state--and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture--rebel, change agent, and artist. Read again or for the first time this masterpiece of 20th-century literature with new material by the author.

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Book description
Blurb of the 20th Anniversary paperback edition:
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.
Composed in an English which has never been spoken and laced with a story-telling tradition that predates the written word, Riddley Walker is the world waiting for us at the bitter end of the nuclear road. Desolate, dangerous and harrowing, it is a modern masterpiece.
Haiku summary
His story, telling
of his story, is telling -
and makes history.
(mekonista)

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