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The Wake

A post-apocalyptic novel set in 1066 by Paul Kingsnorth

This book is published, but you can still pledge for rewards!

The Wake cover

The Synopsis

The Wake has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize 2014, won the Gordon Burn Prize 2014, was longlisted for the Folio Prize 2015, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2014, won The Bookseller Industry Book of the Year Award 2015 and has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliot prize 2015. Congratulations to Paul Kingsnorth, and thank you to everyone who pledged to make this project happen.

Critical acclaim for The Wake
‘Strange and extraordinary … this unusual novel has power. It lingers in the imagination. - The Times

‘Haunting … more truly relevant to where we are now than many of the other books on the Man Booker longlist.’ - Daily Mail

'A literary triumph.'- Guardian

'Extraordinary.'- Philip Pullman

'Kings­north has created a work that is as disturbing as it is empathetic, as beautiful as it is riveting.' - Eimear McBride

The story
Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next. Set in the three years after the Norman invasion of 1066, The Wake will tell the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. It is hung carefully on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten, decade-long war of underground resistance which spread across England in the decade after 1066.

It is a story of the collapse of certainties and lives; a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.

The language
More than three years ago, I began to write a historical novel which made me realise why I don’t read many historical novels. I couldn’t make the words fit, and I gradually began to see why: the language that we speak is so utterly specific to our time and place. Our assumptions, our politics, our worldview, our attitudes – all are implicit in our words, and what we do with them. In order to have any chance of this novel working, I realised I needed to imagine myself into the sheer strangeness of the past. I couldn’t do that by putting 21st century language into the mouths of eleventh-century people.

So I constructed, almost by accident, my own language: a middle ground between the Old English that would have been spoken by these characters and the English we speak today. The result is a book which is written in a tongue that no one has ever spoken, but which is intended to project a ghost image of the speech patterns of a long-dead land: a place at once alien and familiar. Another world, the foundations of our own.

The Wake has taken me nearly four years to write, a journey that has seen me poring over journals in the Bodleian library, sleeping out in the fens, wandering through ancient woodlands, gazing at the Bayeux Tapestry and the Staffordshire Hoard, and spending far too much time immersed in Old English dictionaries. The result is a book which is unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

I can’t promise you an easy bedtime read. But if you do fund me, you will receive something unique. Something which I hope will haunt your imagination long after you put it down.

The Excerpt

the night was clere though i slept i seen it. though i slept i seen the calm hierde naht only the still. when i gan down to sleep all was clere in the land and my dreams was full of stillness but my dreams did not cepe me still
when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when there seems no end to its deopness
none will loc but the wind will cum. the wind cares not for the hopes of men
the times after will be for them who seen the cuman
the times after will be for the waecend

who is thu
who is thu i can not cnaw
what is angland to thu what is left of angland
i spec i spec i spec
no man lystans


The Reviews

This book has 15 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars.

I love this book. Obviously, I was slightly apprehensive about the challenge of reading "shadow tongue" having never read a work like this. I was drawn in by Paul's other works, the history and Paul's character and his stance on politics and the environment. If any of these points aren't enough to capture... (read more)
I loved this book and have been recommending it far and wide! I loved the whole concept and was delighted (and surprised) to find that it was not that many pages in before I was really reading at a good pace. So clever! Please write more!
I have been reading The Wake quietly aloud to myself on my porch near a wood half the world away from it's origin, and strangely, I hear the birds more as I make sense of this new language, the winds more, the trees bending - and I wonder if they are all leaning in, as I am, to enjoy the immense thrill... (read more)

The Author

I am the author of two political travel books. The first, One No Many Yeses (2003), was an exploration of the world’s anti-capitalist movements, which is starting to look rather prescient these days. The second, Real England (2008) was an account of a journey through a nation losing its identity to the forces of placeless globalisation, and my meetings with people working to turn the tide.

In 2009, I co-founded the Dark Mountain Project, of which I am now the director. We are a movement of writers, artists, thinkers and doers who are seeking new stories for a world in turmoil. We produce an annual anthology of 'uncivilised writing', hold a yearly festival and are curating a growing global network of interesting artistic outsiders.

In 2011, my first collection of poetry, Kidland, was published by Salmon. The Wake will be, with your help, my first published novel.

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, my website is here.

Questions & Answers

Carter Wilkie Carter Wilkie asked:

Will Unbound issue The Wake in audio book format? If so, who is the narrator?

Unbound Unbound replied:

Hi Carter,

At the moment there are no plans for an audiobook. We are thinking about how we might to this however, so please do sign up to our newsletter or follow us (we're @unbounders) on Twitter as this is where we'll put any news.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

The Rewards

This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.


ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

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  • Brand new hardback trade edition
  • ebook edition.
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Collector's Edition
  • Signed and personally dedicated1st edition hardback
  • ebook edition
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First edition hardback
A coptic-stitched hardback, plus the ebook.
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Dark Mountain

Everything up to and including Collector’s level plus a ticket to next year’s Uncivilisation festival (worth £65) and a copy of the latest Dark Mountain anthology.

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Special coptic stitched hardback plus a day out for 2 to join Paul’s guided tour of Senlac Hill and the site of the Battle of Hastings (Picnic included).

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Saxon Book

A deluxe limited edition of the text, beautifully printed on 175gsm laid paper and bound in traditional Dark Ages fashion. Only 20 available. Read more here

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