The Wake: A Novel

The Wake: A Novel

by Paul Kingsnorth

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"A work that is as disturbing as it is empathetic, as beautiful as it is riveting." —Eimear McBride, New Statesman

In the aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror was uncompromising and brutal. English society was broken apart, its systems turned on their head. What is little known is that a fractured network of guerrilla fighters took up arms against the French occupiers.
In The Wake, a postapocalyptic novel set a thousand years in the past, Paul Kingsnorth brings this dire scenario back to us through the eyes of the unforgettable Buccmaster, a proud landowner bearing witness to the end of his world. Accompanied by a band of like-minded men, Buccmaster is determined to seek revenge on the invaders. But as the men travel across the scorched English landscape, Buccmaster becomes increasingly unhinged by the immensity of his loss, and their path forward becomes increasingly unclear.
Written in what the author describes as "a shadow tongue"—a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable to the modern reader—The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster's world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past. A tale of lost gods and haunted visions, The Wake is both a sensational, gripping story and a major literary achievement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555979072
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 681,182
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Paul Kingsnorth is a former journalist and deputy editor of The Ecologist magazine who has won several awards for his poetry and essays. He is also the author of two works of nonfiction. In 2009, he cofounded the Dark Mountain Project, an international network of writers, artists, and thinkers in search of new stories for troubled times. The Wake is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

The Wake

A Novel

By Paul Kingsnorth

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2013 Paul Kingsnorth
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55597-907-2


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 hierethe 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 specs i specs
but no man lystens

the songs from the holt

songs yes here is songs from a land forheawan folded under by a great slege a folc harried beatan a world brocen apart. all is open lic a wound unhealan and grene the world open and grene all men apart from the heorte. deofuls in the heofon all men with sweord when they sceolde be with plough the ground full not of seed but of my folc

aefry ember of hope gan lic the embers of a fyr brocen in the daegs beginnan brocen by men other than us. hope falls harder when the end is cwic hope falls harder when in the daegs before the storm the stillness of the age was writen in the songs of men

so it is when a world ends

who is thu i can not cnaw but i will tell thu this thing

be waery of the storm

be most waery when there is no storm in sight

feoht tell them feoht

loc it is well cnawan there is those wolde be tellan lies and those with only them selfs in mynd. there is those now who specs of us and what we done but who cnawan triewe no man cnawan triewe but i and what i tell i will tell as i sceolde and all that will be telt will be all the triewth. triewth there is lytel of now in this half broc land our folc wepan and greotan and biddan help from their crist who locs on in stillness saen naht. and no triewth will thu hiere from the hore who claims he is our cyng or from his biscops or those who wolde be his men by spillan anglisc guttas on anglisc ground and claiman anglisc land their own

ah but we is broc now dreaned we is too small to feoht mor we has borne it too hard we secs now only to lif. and if there is any left who thincs to lif after his triewth or after the laws of the crist if there is any thincs him self abuf this through luf or through mildness of heorte then he will die with his wif and his cildren for all is broc now

all is broc

still i will stand and i will tell the triewth the triewth of what i done and for what i was feohtan and how i was brocen by those ficol hores what i stood and cwelled for. i has not forgot i has cept it for there is micel must be telt and words now is left my only waepens and none wolde sae i has efer been afeart to wield what waepens i has

because of what is wispred it moste be telt what befell i was a socman of the blaec fenns a free man of the eald danelaugh where there was no ealdors too high for the folc to cum to and if they wolde pull down. thu wolde not cnaw it to see me now my nebb blaec all is broc a lif in fenn and holt but i was a free man of angland a man of parts in my land i was born this way i is still a free man i is still a free man

to them i wants to cnaw it i is named buccmaster of holland

the songs will be sung for a thousand years

our fathers was freer than us our fathers fathers stalcced the wilde fenns now the fenns is bean tamed efry thing gets smaller. for efry cilde born there is sum new law a man sceolde be free and alone on his land the world sceolde not cum in until he ascs it. freodom sceolde there be in angland again lic there was in the eald daegs in the first daegs of the anglisc

freodom in angland

now if this bastard is gifan to lif the fenns will be succd of the sea and gifan to the land gifan ofer to man and the gods of the secg and the water will die and the spirit of our folc in these lands will die. the wilde will be tacan from these fenns and the wilde will be tacan from in me for in efry man there is the wind and the water and his wore until he is tacan is to cepe the wilde landsfrom the tamers

cwell the bastard

cwell the bastard

cwell the bastard

in these places there is wihts uncnawan to man there moste be no law put on us by sweord or by word of ingenga cyng

bastard tamer with stan and style the wilde is all

wood not stan

it will tac thu baec

water not the lea

it can wait long

the hafoc not the ox

but we colde not wait long we colde wait no mor

an unfree land breeds an unfree folc

and i moste go baec now baec before the storm baec to when things was still lic the springmere

go baec yes go baec

* * *

see i had cnawan yfel was cuman when i seen this fugol glidan ofer

a great blaec fugol it was not of these lands it flown slow ofer the ham one daeg at the time of first ploughan. its necc was long its eages afyr and on the end of its fethra was a mans fingors all this i seen clere this was a fugol of deofuls. in stillness it cum and slow so none may miss it or what it had for us. this was eosturmonth in the year when all was broc

what is this fugol i saes to my wifman

i cnaw naht of fugols she saes why does thu asc me of these

things wifman i saes lysten this is sum scucca glidan ofer us what does thu mac of this naht she nefer saes naht

i tell thu sum thing is cuman

sum thing is cuman she saes lic specan my words will scut the mouth they cum from. sum times this wif she needed laws though there was many wimman things she was learned in. it is not a mans worc tospec of the loom nor the water pael nor to asc of brewan nor of reapan all these things my wif done well and in stillness. many was called to beat their wifs mor than i many there was whose cildren ran wilder sum whose wifmen was drifan nacod from their hus for the fuccan of their neighbours behind the raecs at haerfest but this wif of mine most times she was a good wif only she did not lysten

it is no good to spec to thu i saes these is not wifman things i will spec to sum other

what thu wysc my husbond she saes

so what i done i gan to the ham. my land and my hus was apart from the ham as is right for a socman this land was good land good ground it was the land of my father i will not spec of my father to thu

i was no i is a socman of holland a part of the scir of lincylene where the ground was blaec and good and deop. our ham was an ealond in the fenns on all sides the wilde on all sides the dabcic the water wulf the lesch and the deorc waters. our folc cnawan this place lic we cnawan our wifmen and our cildren. we cnawan fiscan and fowlan the gathran of the lesch the ploughan and the pannan of the salt we cnawan the paths through the fenns the ways with the ael and the alor mastors we was of the blaec lands

so i will go to the ham i saes to my wifman and i will asc what the gerefa macs of this fugol. she was wefan on her great loom in my great hus as i left this hus was sum thing to see. raised of ac timber it was the roof laid with secg from the fenn all carfan on the door frames wyrms and the runes of the eald times. treen we had and sum seol for things a great crocc greater than many in the ham many men was lustan after my hus

three oxgangs of good land i had and two geburs to worc for me on it and four oxen of my own for the plough this was mor than any other man in this ham. baerlic i had and rye sceap and hors also i had swine pasture holt my own water aeppels on many good treows

a great man i was in my ham all cnawan me a seat i had on the wapentac and free i was from the worc of other men. this was my land it was my fathers land i will not spec of my father. geld wolde i gif but only to the cyng not to the thegn. sum lytel worc wolde i do for the thegn for this was how things was but no man was ofer me no man will be ofer me

socmen was free men socmen is free men still. in other parts of angland men was thralls in thrall to the thegn their land their lifs gifen to ealdors and higher men and now to the frenc men but not in holland not inlincylene not in the east. free men we was in the fenns free on our land free men we is still naht will mof us not the frenc

i was specan of this fugol i will not spec yet of the frenc

i gan through my lands i gan along the path to the ham where there was six hus six cynns most not free men with land but with micel owed to the thegn. when i was seen these men was always in awe

buccmaster they all saes gretans to thu buccmaster

sum times i wolde sae naht to this for i was a socman with my own lands with three oxgangs and they was thralls but this daeg this fugol was in my thincan

what of this fugol i saes what of this fugol thu has seen this yes

fugol they saes fugol. dumb lic hunds was these men

this fugol i saes this great blaec fugolcuman ofer fugol

oft i lost my mynd with them

the heofon is full of eorcas this daeg has thu men seen naht

well saes one jalf was his name sum gebur he was sum esol not free. well saes this jalf there is many fugols here of course buccmaster it is odd thu sceolde spec of one when all is the same to mine eages

fewer of these fugols wolde be better saes sum other they eats my beans

there is noddan at this. fewer fugols saes all these esols

has thu no eages thu nithings blind thu moste all be blind

of course they saes naht to this only locs at their feet

thu wasts my time thu geburs where is ecceard find me ecceard

ecceard was the gerefa of this ham in sum ways a man to tac care around. he colde tac geld or spec of thu to the thegn micel colde he do to harry thu if he ceos. but ecceard was also a plough owner of sum greatness ecceard wolde cnaw about this fugol

ecceard was in his hus doan naht drincan ealu only sittan. his hus was smaller than my hus though he was gerefa his floor all straw not clene his windows smaller his fyr smaller though his ealu was well brewed

it is a good lif as gerefa yes ecceard

buccmaster thu is well cum here it is always good to see an eornost man

has thu not worc ecceard sum geburs to harry sum hors to loc at sum geld to tac from sum eornost man

has thu cum here to tell me my worc buccmaster

i jocs i saes and i laughs. no i has cum here to spec with thu of this fugol

the great buccmaster cums to spec to me of fugols well this is an odd daeg

now lysten i saes i is sic of this ham. lysten i was standan in my feld and abuf me passed this great blaec fugol this was a scort time baec. this fugol its eages were afyr it had arms lic any man it spac to me lysten. this fugol i seen it it was glidan ofer the ham there is sum thing cuman

a fugol of the deoful then saes ecceard well these is sum tidans indeed

this is no cristian fugol

there is no cristian fugols ofer thy land buccmaster

do not joc with me ecceard this is a graef thing

none wolde dare joc with thu buccmaster of holland my wise freond. well sceal we send to the preost to ring the bell or sceal we call to the thegn to cum and hiere us spec of fugols or sceal we call a moot of the wapentac to thinc on this. it may be we colde mac this fugol gif geld for its misdeeds

does thu mocc me ecceard

buccmaster i moccs thu only with mildness

this fugol was an yfel thing

well i has seen no fugol none here has seen such a fugol buccmaster or i wolde haf hierde of it. men in this ham thu cnawan them sum hara passan through their baerlic at night they tacs as a word from crist their cildren coughs and it is the deoful specan. a specan bird with eages of fyr if this had cum here i colde not cepe down the madness across all this scir

it was a word but not from the crist

then what sceolde i do buccmaster about this thing what wolde thu haf me do

sum thing is cuman ecceard

what wolde thu haf me do tell me what is cuman

this is what i want to cnaw

then go buccmaster and loc to the heofon again and it may be thy fugol will tell thu

well ecceard was no help these geburs they was no help the smith the fuccan preost the cottars none seen this fugol. this is why i is a manof greatness while others still lifs off water snaecs from the fenn these men has no eages in their fuccan heafods. o fugol they saes o buccmaster has thu hierde he talcs of sum fugol o

next month it was

next fuccan month they cums to me and now there is no smerc on their nebbs

not three wices after the fugol and now buccmaster is sum wis man

next fuccan month we seen the star

a grene treow will be heawan in two and one half of this treow will be tacan awaeg three furlongs and there planted deop in anglisc ground. and not until this treow is hol again and bers aeppels again with no help from man will angland be hol also for thy god has ceosan this folc to feel his wrath

synn is upon this grene land biscops moccs the word of god earls fucc in the sight of the crist ceorls drincs ealu and is druncen. there is deop synn all through this land and thu will be strac down o angland for what thu has done

i see in the heofon a haeric star this star will beorn for eight daegs and nine nights gods hand is upon thu the word of his wrath is upon thu. and in my bed my death bed now two capd men of the crist i sees and they specs to me

o edweard cyng they saes o ealdor of angland thy folc is in thrall to the eald deorc deoful they has wandred from the path and now the lord will stric them down. soon thy sawol will be tacan o edweard cyng and thu will be gifted the cyngdom of heofon for thy worc but on thy folc there will cum a great fear. the sea will teorn to blud and braec upon thy southern strand and thy cyngdom will be gifan into the hands of the deoful for this be his will

o what can be done i saes to them what can be done for my poor folc and they saes there is naht to be done edweard cyng that thu has not done by now through thy triewe cristian luf. the treow will be heawan it is the will of the crist and time alone and death will bring it together. lie in thy bed o cyng of men and cum now to the end that will bring thu to the wide felds of heofon and thy folc to the open gaets of hel

when we was in the brunnesweald nebbs all blaec hydan in the grene holt lic the afeart bucc oft i was thincan of my grandfather. a great man he was strong in all he wolde weep to see what angland has becum. efen he strong man that he was wolde weep lic a cilde to see us hidan there runnan from ingengas in our own land that is no longer our own land

tales he wolde tell me of many things. of the great scips he seen cuman in from the sea with the wilde denes all afyr callan for the blud of their gods. of eald aethelred cyng he who broc us of the great death at maldon the sea druncen with anglisc blud. of cnut who was denisc then becum anglisc and other tales from farther baec of the time of his grandfather of great aelfred and of aethelstan of the eald wundors of angland

of this haeric star i was specan but my grandfather a great tall man he was hwit beard hwit haer his own sweord all on the beam of his hus what becum my hus. he wolde spec micel of the eald daegs of the anglisc of our folcs cuman here to these grene lands from across the wid sea. and those daegs he wolde always sae those daegs was best for our folc for we was as one agan the ingenga and we was free. no thegns there was then no preosts no crist no cyng of angland but free men alone in the wilde tacan the land men in freodom not in thrall. marc this he saes this is how angland moste always be gif no geld lysten to no law if thu can run from it for always they will cum to tac from thu what is thine always the gerefa the thegn the wapentac the eorl the cyng always this thought is in them what can i get from these free men how can i tac from them and cepe them down. mor years of this saes my grandfather mor years of this and we will be thralls lic the wealsc tac heed

thu will see why i tells thu these things but lysten now the haeric star

o but why sceolde i spec now of these things why sceolde i tell thu all is gan now all is too laet. what can cum now by specan of these things at efry teorn the gods was agan us

for so long i felt sum thing was cuman try to lif thy lif when sum thing is cuman when ahead of thu on the path is sum deorcness. try to lif lic this none can lif lic this the deorcness waitan for thu i will not tell thu mor i can not

no i will go on i will tell it i moste

it is early in the mergen it is gan eostur now when the land waecens from winter all the land is cuman open all is grene and waecnan. water crows is callan in the fenn the alor treow is grene haras is in the felds fugols in the water and the heofon there is micel goodness here beyond what man has macd. my folc was in the fenns before the crist cum to angland this ground is in our bodigs deop

two geburs i had to worc for me on my land these geburs was bound first to my father they did not loc up to him none did but they locd up to me for what i done. they was bound to me two daegs in efry wice and three daegs at haerfest

this mergen early with the sunne high in the heofon the wind clene a wundor it is to be in the fenns in these times a wundor it was before the beornan cum. this mergen i was on my land i was sean to my geburs they was sawan flax. one man he was called gamel i had put him to haro the blaec ground with blaec thorn twigges the other he was called asger he was sawan the seed after.this asger i moste tac care of always for he was an esol of a man. bound to me he was but it wolde be better sum times for my swine to do this worc so dumb was he

thu will haf my wifman to answer to if this does not cum up i saes to this gebur. my wifman she colde spin fax


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All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


The Wake,
A partial glossary,
A note on language,
A note on history,

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The Wake 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author's use of the "Eauld Anglise" language in his portrayal of this story is truly a unique & wonderfully inimate glimpse into the mind, beliefs & down-to-earth views of daily life from the ordinary people of the 11th & 12th centuries (A.D.). While feeling witness to the realistic, gritty, day-to-day struggles of basic survival, one can almost feel the cold, the woodsmoke with descriptions so vivid you can taste & smell both the fresh baked bread as well as the unwashed multitudes. A fantastic excersise for the mind. You must WANT to read this in order to get through it, BUT...after the first few pages...believe me, you WILL want to!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This eecummings wanta be has written an entire book that has to be deciphered and translated before being readable. I can only assume he doesn't want anyone to read his work. Must be pretty awful, eh? Glad this sample was free.