Finding your way around Riddley Walker’s world

In this novel’s post-literate realm, it is harder to work out what is happening than in most fiction. But we can’t mistake its intensely human story

We’ve had a go at understanding the language in Riddley Walker, but there are plenty more intriguing questions to answer. Such as: who is Riddley Walker? What is going on? When is it happening? And where?

The “where” is easy. It becomes apparent early on that Riddley is roaming around Kent. “Cambry” is Canterbury, a place where huge organ pipes were found and where someone called “the Ardship Of Cambry” lives. Russell Hoban explains in his afterword: “Horny Boy is Herne Bay; Widders bel is Whistable; Father’s Ham is Faversham; Bernt Arse is Ashford; Fork Stoan is Folkestone; Do It Over is Dover.” These approximations are amusing, but I can see their logic in a society that has largely lost the ability to ...