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Hoban, Russell

riddley book struggle mouse

(US, 1925– )

Russell Hoban was born in Pennsylvania but has lived in London since 1965. He was an illustrator of children's books before turning to writing himself, and his output for children is huge. In The Mouse and His Child (1967) a clockwork mouse and his child are thrown out of the toy-shop. The book chronicles their attempts to regain their home, their happiness, and the power of ‘self-winding’. Of Hoban's writing for adults try Turtle Diary (1975), in which a man and a woman separately decide to free the turtles from London Zoo. This was made into a film with Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson, and is one of Hoban's most accessible novels, though it shares with his more rarefied work a sense of the incurable alienation of humanity. Hoban's most important adult book, however, is Riddley Walker (1980), set either in the future or the distant past, in a world devastated by nuclear holocaust. Riddley and his companions live in a primitive, raw world where every day is a struggle for food, survival, and meaning. The book is written in an invented, post-holocaust language but don't let that put you off; the style is compelling after the strangeness of the first few paragraphs. And Riddley's struggle and vision make this one of the most poetic and moving masterpieces in contemporary literature.

William Golding, J. G. Ballard.

See SCIENCE FICTION  LM

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