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With After London, or Wild England Richard Jefferies has written the first post-apocalyptic novel, the first literary exploration of what the world might be like, how the survivors and their descendants might live, after civilization as we know it has ended. The plot of this story is rudimental, its hero hardly conforms to our action hero expectations, but still the book grips the reader, by the liveliness and richness of the descriptions of a new world – its nature, and the people who inhabit it. Jefferies shows us a world that is violent and far from perfect, he is aware of the value of the things that have been lost, but still we feel the author’s sympathy for this simpler world, and his disdain for the big city whose deadly remains, a century after its demise, still poison the air, the ground, and the water. And in this world full of enemies and dangers, a young man must embark on a trip into the unknown, to prove himself worthy of the girl he loves …
About the Author
John Richard Jefferies, born in 1848, grew up on a small debt-ridden farm near Swindon in Wiltshire in South West England – his childhood on the farm greatly influenced his life and provided the background to his literary work. At the age of 16, together with a slightly older cousin, he attepted to run off first to Russia and then to America, but returned home when both attempts failed. Two years later, in 1866, he began work as a reporter for a local newspaper (The Swindon Advertiser, which still exists today), whose editor, an antiquarian, lent him books and encouraged him to write. He began to actively persue a career as a writer, but it took until 1874 before his first novel, The Scarlet Shawl, was published, the same year in which he married the daughter of a local farmer, Jessie Baden. Having suffered symptoms before, in 1881 Jefferies was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which over the next years increasingly affected his health; he died from his illness in the summer of 1887.
Jefferies was greatly renown as a “nature writer” – his essays on nature and country life appeared in magazines and were collected and published in book form. In his short stories and novels, too, nature plays an important role, as do the memories of his childhood. His final novel, Amaryllis at the Fair (1887) is semi-autobiographical, but autobiographical elements pervade his works of fiction, including the fantasy novels The Rise of Maximin (1876/77), World’s End (1877), and finally After London (1885), the first post-apocalyptic novel ever written.