Quentin Blake has created 39 illustrations for a new edition of Russell Hoban’s 1980 science fiction novel Riddley Walker, and contributed an essay named Draw is an Intersting Word, an excerpt of which you can read below.
The novel is set in post-apocalyptic Kent, 2,500 years after a nuclear catastrophe has put England into a second Iron Age. This new limited edition run of the book includes added sections including an Afterword and Glossary by the author, known for “Riddleyspeak”, a fractured phonetic version of English. This can be spotted in the title of Quentin’s essay, which is taken from Russell Hoban’s dedication to Quentin in a previous edition of the book.
Only 1,000 copies have been printed, each signed and numbered by Quentin Blake. Blake collaborated with the author for decades, beginning with How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen in the mid 70s and ending with Hoban’s final fable Rosie’s Magic Horse published in 2011 shortly before Hoban died.
Quentin writes, on creating the illustrations for this edition of Riddley Walker: “In some ways I am reluctant to talk about the illustrations; their effect on the spectator, however arrived at, is their success or failure. But the process is of great interest to me, and not least here, where the invitation was to create images which on the one hand were my drawings and on the other would be near Riddley’s primitive text. Incident – activity – is fascinating to me, but what seemed to me here was the atmosphere – the darkness, the drizzle, the ruined landscape. I have tried to depict the handful of significant characters that Riddley encounters, but I have left most of the active moments of drama to him to recount.”
The illustrations were drawn with a quill, on which he comments: “The idea of such ancient implements having their marks reproduced by the most sophisticated contemporary printing techniques is one that appeals to me – you feel you are taking part in the history of the craft – but more important is the character of the marks they make. They can be coarse, as appropriate to the situations of Riddley’s narrative language, but also quite precise in detail of gesture and expression.”
This special edition of Riddley Walker is published by The Folio Society on 18 April 2017.
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