Publication date: April 2015
116% funded
808 backers
Cover of The Wake

A post-apocalyptic novel set in 1066

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.

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.

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


An update on delivery dates

Friday, 17 January 2014

Dear Subscribers,

We're delighted to say that your subscriber copy of The Wake is now steaming towards us from China. 

Unfortunately the printer encountered some problems on the binding line - the perils of coptic stitch - so they are not now due to arrive in our warehouse until February 20th, which is later than we anticipated.

We're sorry for this delay, but rest assured the books will…

Cover design

Friday, 4 October 2013

Thewake coptic

After months of making sure we got it right this is the final cover design for the book, with beautiful coptic stitching down the spine. Do let us know what you think of it.

We're hoping to get copies out to subscribers by early 2014 at the latest. 

Best wishes,

The Unbounders


Thursday, 22 November 2012

This is the book's glossary, which explains some of the more obscure vocabulary. I hope that you find it tantalising enough to want to read on!


A partial glossary


ABBODRICE – monastery

AC – oak

ALOR – alder

BLOTMONTH – November (lit. ‘blood month’, when livestock were killed for winter)

BLUD EARN – (lit. ‘blood eagle.’) Mythical Viking sacrifice in which the victim’s lungs were cut from…


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

This is the second appendix to the novel: the first, on the book's language, can be found below, in another post. This one explains the story's historical context, and lists the sources consulted in the process of researching it.


A note on history

The Norman invasion and occupation of England was probably the most catastrophic single event in this nation’s history. It brought slaughter, famine…

Paul Kingsnorth commented on this blog post.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Below is the text of the appendix which will appear at the back of The Wake, explaining how - and why - I constucted the language (or should that be the dialect?) of the novel. It's an attempt, after the fact, to explain how this happened - a process which, as it went on, I wasn't always even quite aware of myself.


A note on language

What we now call ‘Old English’ was the language of the English…

Saxon Book Level

Monday, 15 October 2012

The ‘Saxon’ edition of the Wake will be an exquisite piece of craft book-making. We will typeset the text and beautifully print it, using an appropriate antique font and bind using the technology available in 1066: hand-sewn paper sections, goatskin, wooden boards and jute cord. All supporters of this edition will have their names inscribed by hand in the front of the book.

Carter Wilkie
Carter Wilkie asked:

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

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

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