Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker was originally published in 1980. The novel is set in Kent some two or three thousand years after a nuclear holocaust which has destroyed the land, plunging society back to iron-age levels of technology. Its foundational myth, the Eusa story, grown out of the scattered fragments of ancient history, is the story of how technological progress led to the nuclear war and the long dark age which is referred to as “Bad Time.” After the death of his father in an accident at work, Riddley, our narrator, eventually finds himself leaving the community and heading out alone on a quest to rediscover and perhaps return to prosperity of the ancients. The story is told in an imagined, future dialect of English which, though rugged and decayed, has its own alien poetry.
Over the course of the episode, we discuss Hoban’s invented dialect, his plundering of English folklore, what it means to create a mythology, and the pivotal significance of the figure of The Green Man.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation by Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber, 2007)
The Death of Tragedy by George Steiner (Faber & Faber, 1961)
‘Hoap of a Tree in Riddley Walker’ by David Huisman in Christianity and Literature, Vol. 43, No. 3/4 (Spring-Summer 1994)
‘Dialect, Grapholect, and Story: Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker as Science Fiction’ by R. D. Mullen in Science Fiction Studies Vol. 27, No. 3 (Nov., 2000)