In an isolated structure, known as The Green Chapel, a nuclear threat – represented by the looming black mass of The Armorer – rises and seethes. It is a hazard that is answered by the land itself, part-anthropomorphised in the totemic, element-hewn figures of it, he, she, they and as.
Redolent of the mesmeric power of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man and infused with the timeless fluidity of a Mystery Play, Ness is an extraordinary collaboration between two of the most original minds of our time. Drawing on previous works – including Robert Macfarlane’s Untrue Island libretto in association with the National Trust-run site of Orford Ness – as well as Macfarlane and Donwood’s career-spanning interests in language, memory and the incipient threat posed by climate change and global development, it is a melting pot of experimental thought and imagination.
Incorporating strands of ancient myth and Middle English storytelling and told in a combination of prose-poetry and image that demands to be spoken, read-aloud and shared, Ness brings to life the very imminent threat to our age: the fundamental crisis of the Anthropocene. Vital and enlivening, it is a work that asks fundamental questions about our living landscape, the potency of language and how we defend ourselves from the dangers we ourselves pose and create.
Eerie, unsettling and hauntingly beautiful - a new collaboration from the bestselling creators of Holloway
'Ness goes beyond what we expect books to do. Beyond poetry, beyond the word, beyond the bomb -- it is an aftertime song. It is dark, ever so dark, nimble and lethal. It is a triumphant libretto of mythic modernism for our poisoned age. Ness is something else, and feels like it always has been' Max Porter, Booker-longlisted author of Lanny and Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Somewhere on a salt-and-shingle island, inside a ruined concrete structure known as The Green Chapel, a figure called The Armourer is leading a ritual with terrible intent.
But something is coming to stop him.
Five more-than-human forms are traversing land, sea and time towards The Green Chapel, moving to the point where they will converge and become Ness. Ness has lichen skin and willow-bones. Ness is made of tidal drift, green moss and deep time. Ness has hagstones for eyes and speaks only in birds. And Ness has come to take this island back.
What happens when land comes to life? What would it take for land to need to come to life? Using word and image, Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood have together made a minor modern myth. Part-novella, part-prose-poem, part-mystery play, in Ness their skills combine to dazzling, troubling effect.
Robert Macfarlane is the author of The Lost Words with Jackie Morris, The Old Ways and Underland, among other books.
Stanley Donwood is an artist and the author of Slowly Downward and Household Worms. His next books are There Will Be No Quiet and Bad Island.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 96
Dimensions: 204 x 132 mm