December 27, 2016


Watership Down author Richard Adams dies at 96 (Reuters, 12/27/16)

British novelist Richard Adams, the author of "Watership Down", which sold millions of copies and captivated a generation of children, has died aged 96, his family said.

The tale of brave rabbits searching for safety when their warren is threatened was at first rejected by major publishers. But the adventures of Hazel and Fiver went on to become a best-seller and the book is now considered a classic.

It was also made into a hugely successful animated film and won the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Children's Fiction Award.

Adams, a self-confessed countryside-loving man, was a civil servant who left government after realizing the city was not for him.

Richard Adams: a unique writer whose masterwork made literary history : In Watership Down, he created a book ahead of its time, a multi-layered novel that appealed to adults and children alike. But Adams was no one-hit wonder (Philip Ardagh, 28 December 2016, The Guardian)

[T]hose of us who read and loved Adams's original book will be transported to quite a different place: a world of rabbits with their own traditions, customs and legends, but not outwardly anthropomorphic (no waistcoats, pocket watches or two-legged walking here). There is something unique about the novel, so multi-layered and complete. Since its publication, we've had William Horwood's moles in Duncton Wood, and attempts at similar approaches with deer and crows and the like, but none has achieved quite what Adams did with rabbits.

What many people may be unaware of is that Watership Down was first published, at the end of 1972, by one-man publishing outfit Rex Collings, well before the days of Kickstarter, print on demand or digital downloads. The book looked decidedly amateurish but went on to be snapped up by Penguin, who took the then extremely unusual step of publishing it under both the Puffin and Penguin imprints; in other words, for children and adults. The novel won immediate recognition with the Guardian children's fiction prize and the Carnegie medal.

It's easy to forget what a phenomenon Watership Down was at the time. Here was a book - over 400 pages long - read by young and old alike. It propelled Adams into the limelight like few other authors. The phrase "capturing the zeitgeist" might have been invented for it.

Posted by at December 27, 2016 10:36 PM