Literary Birthday – 4 February – Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban was born 4 February 1925 and died 13 December 2011.


  1. When I write a book, I don’t have a plan or an outline. The characters move the action, and the action develops the characters. When I write a book, I become an actor, really, taking the role of the person who is speaking or acting at the time, and so their reactions to whatever they see are my reactions.
  2. Language is an archaeological vehicle… the language we speak is a whole palimpsest of human effort and history.
  3. The things that matter don’t necessarily make sense.
  4. After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?
  5. Words have a life; without response they die.
  6. The first thing I would say to young writers is, “Don’t do it, unless you can’t stand not to do it.” And the second thing I would say is, “If you do do it, and get into it, the constant rule you should have in mind is to explore your material.” It sounds simple, but it isn’t, because people often want to get from A to B, and they don’t stop to look at what is in the material.
  7. I’ll never retire. They’ll have to take my computer out of my cold, dead hands. I’m addicted to writing. I feel physically unwell if I’m not doing it.
  8. Usually my starting point is something that I’ve seen. It might be a painting, it might be an object. But they always start from a definite sensory experience.
  9. I’d always assumed I was the central character in my own story, but now it occurred to me I might in fact be only a minor character in someone else’s.

Russell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works spanned many genres, including myth, fantasy, science fiction, humour, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, philosophy, and children’s books. He mainly explored issues of self-identity. His most enduring creation is probably the badger Frances, who appears in a series of books beginning with Bedtime for Frances. He lived in London from 1969 until his death.

Source for quotes

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 3rd February 2020