After London by Richard Jefferies
March 30, 2011 Fiction
Jefferies’ novel, After London (1885), can be seen as an early example of “post-apocalyptic fiction“: after some sudden and unspecified catastrophe has depopulated England, the countryside reverts to nature, and the few survivors to a quasi-medieval way of life.
The book has two parts. The first, “The Relapse into Barbarism”, is the account by some later historian of the fall of civilisation and its consequences, with a loving description of nature reclaiming England: fields becoming overrun by forest, domesticated animals running wild, roads and towns becoming overgrown, the hated London reverting to lake and poisonous swampland. The second part, “Wild England”, is largely a straightforward adventure set many years later in the wild landscape and society (here too Jefferies was setting an example for the genre); but the opening section, despite some improbabilities, has been much admired for its rigour and compelling narrative.