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A short excerpt from Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake'

October 16, 2015

Are you torn about what to read next? Maybe can’t decide between whether to go post-apocalyptic or historical? Are you torn between utopian hopes and dystopian doubt? Is George RR Martin simply taking too long? Well, fret not, my friend, because Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake is all these things, sort of.

Published by Graywolf Press, the novel watches the world fall apart in 1066 AD, not at the claws and teeth of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons or blizzardly cold White Walkers, but at the hands and sword of William the Conqueror. At least, that’s what I gather. I’m only fifteen pages in, but I’m falling hard, or at least trying to.

Here’s a paragraph from the first chapter:

a great blaec fugo it was not of these lands it flown slow ofer the ham one daeg at the time of first ploughan. its necc was long its eages afyr and on the end of its fethra was a mans fingors all this i seen clere this was a fugol of deofuls. in stillness it cum and slow so none may miss it or what it had for us. this was eosturmonth in the year when all was broc

While admittedly difficult, I can’t help but be infatuated by Kingsnorth’s language experiment, even if it reeks of possible gimmickry. Most post-apocalyptic novels work to achieve disorientation by moving into an unknown future of yet to be discovered technology and plot twists. William’s conquest of England, however, is a result already known, so Kingsnorth disorients his readers by shifting the language back to something before the Great Vowel Shift etc. And I’m just the right amount of confused to keep reading.


Bryan Harvey tweets about many things and nothing at all @LawnChairBoys

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