I started Riddley Walker in straight English but my characters wouldn’t wear it, they insisted on breaking up long words and imposing their own grammar, syntax and pronunciation on their vernacular. The Ardship of Cambry, eyeless and misbegotten, assumed the twisted title of the dignitary of our time; Whitstable became Widders Bell, Herne Bay became Horny Boy and so on. People “vackt their wayt” when they had to leave a place, which is what Erny Orfing does when he has to “voat no kynd of fents” (this expresses a vote of no confidence as well as giving the image of the security he feels he lacks) and leave the Eusa folk. The language slows the reader down to Riddley’s speed as he takes in what’s happening and so effectively becomes a supporting player in the action. Since Riddley Walker I can’t spell properly any more, but what the hell.

Guardian book club: Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Riddley Walker is an amazing book.