Paul Kingsnorth

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Paul Kingsnorth
Kingsnorth in 2011
Born1972 (age 50–51)
EducationSt Anne's College, Oxford
Known forNovelist, writer, poet, environmentalist

Paul Kingsnorth (born 1972) is an English writer who lives in the west of Ireland. He is a former deputy-editor of The Ecologist and a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project.

Kingsnorth's nonfiction writing tends to address macro themes like environmentalism, globalisation, and the challenges posed to humanity by civilisation-level trends. His fiction, notably the Buckmaster Trilogy, tends to be mythological and multi-layered.


Kingsnorth spent his childhood in southern England with two younger brothers (one went on to work with Friends of the Earth, the other for Citibank). His father was a passionate Thatcherite, a businessman, and a mechanical engineer. Kingsnorth describes his father's background as "working-class," and he says that his father pushed Kingsnorth to go to university. He was the first in his family to do so.[1]

Kingsnorth was educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, and St Anne's College, Oxford, where he studied modern history. During this period he became involved in the Dongas road protest group at sites including Twyford Down, Solsbury Hill, and the M11 link road protest in east London. After chaining himself to a bridge alongside fifty others, Kingsnorth was arrested, an event that solidified the importance of protest for him.[2][3]

At Oxford, Kingsnorth edited the University's longest-running student newspaper, Cherwell. With this background, he started working on the comment desk of The Independent in 1994. But he found this work frivolous and uninspiring, so after less than a year Kingsnorth left[2] to join the environmental campaign group EarthAction. He has subsequently worked as commissioning editor for openDemocracy, as a publications editor for Greenpeace and, between 1999 and 2001, as deputy editor of The Ecologist. He was named one of Britain's "top ten troublemakers" by the New Statesman magazine in 2001.[4] In 2020, he was called "England's greatest living writer" by Aris Roussinos.[5]

In 2004, he was one of the founders of the Free West Papua Campaign,[6] which campaigns for the secession of the provinces of Papua and West Papua from Indonesia, where Kingsnorth was made an honorary member of the Lani tribe in 2001.[7]

In January 2021 he was baptised in the Romanian Orthodox Church at the Romanian Monastery in Shannonbridge, Ireland.[8] He wrote about his spiritual journey and conversion to Christianity in a June 2021 essay in First Things.[9]

The Dark Mountain Project[edit]

Hine and Kingsnorth providing a five-year retrospective on the Dark Mountain Project

Kingsnorth announced retirement from journalism in late 2007 in a blog post.[2] In 2009, with writer and social activist Dougald Hine, Kingsnorth founded the Dark Mountain Project, "a network of writers, artists, and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself". Since 2009 it has run a series of summer festivals and smaller events, produced bi-annual anthologies of "uncivilised" writing and art, and built up an international collection of writers and artists who aim to "offer up a challenge to the foundations of our civilisation". One Uncivilization festival described by the New York Times in 2014 included sessions on contemporary nature writing, a panel describing criticisms of psychiatric care, a reading by Kingsnorth from his book The Wake, and a midnight ritual. The ritual involved the burning of a wicker effigy of a tree.[10][1] He was one of the Project's directors until stepping down in 2017.[citation needed]


After travelling through Mexico, West Papua, Genoa in Italy, and Brazil, Kingsnorth wrote his first book in 2003, One No, Many Yeses. The book explored how globalisation played a role in destroying historic cultures around the world.[1] The book was not successful on initial printing, in part because it came in the first week of the Iraq war.[2] It was published in 6 languages in 13 countries.[citation needed]

Kingsnorth's second book, Real England, was published by Portobello Books in 2008. In this book, he reflected on how those same forces of globalisation affected England, his own country, in the homogenization of culture.[1] This was Kingsnorth's first successful book, resulting in reviews by all major newspapers and citation in speeches by both David Cameron and the archbishop of Canterbury. Writing the book involved travelling for months to interview Englishmen working in traditional institutions, including pubs, shops, and farms. The research process left Kingsnorth ambivalent after facing the forces of development, privatization, and conglomeration.[2]

He has contributed to The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Le Monde, New Statesman, London Review of Books, Granta, The Ecologist, New Internationalist, The Big Issue, Adbusters, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2, BBC Four, ITV, and Resonance FM.

His first collection of poetry, Kidland and other poems, was published by Salmon in 2011.[3] In 2012, he won the Wenlock Prize for "Vodadahue Mountain".[11] His second collection, Songs From The Blue River, was published by Salmon in 2018.

His first novel, The Wake, published via crowdfunding by Unbound in April 2014,[12] was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize[13] and the Folio Prize, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, and won the Gordon Burn Prize.[14] Film rights to the novel were sold to a consortium led by the actor Mark Rylance and the former president of HBO Films Colin Callender.

Kingsnorth's second novel, Beast, was published in 2016 by Faber and Faber and was shortlisted for the Encore Award for the Best Second Novel in 2017. His third novel, Alexandria, was published by Faber in 2021, completing a loose thematic trilogy, beginning with The Wake, which was eventually christened the Buckmaster Trilogy.[15] Announcing the deal, Faber's editorial director, Lee Brackstone, said: "We are welcoming to Faber a writer who belongs in the tradition of past greats like William Golding, Robert Graves, David Peace and Ted Hughes. His sensibility sits comfortably with theirs and his literary achievement could well go on to be their equal. He is that good".[16]

In 2022, Kingsnorth self-published The Vaccine Moment, a collection of his essays criticising public health mitigation of COVID-19.[17]


As editor[edit]

  • Dark Mountain: issue 1, (2010, Dark Mountain Project) ISBN 0-9564960-0-8
  • Dark Mountain: issue 2, (2011, Dark Mountain Project) ISBN 0-9564960-1-6
  • Dark Mountain: issue 3, (2012, Dark Mountain Project) ISBN 0-9564960-2-4
  • Dark Mountain: issue 4, (2013, Dark Mountain Project)
  • Dark Mountain: issue 5, (2014, Dark Mountain Project)
  • Dark Mountain: issue 6, (2014, Dark Mountain Project)
  • The World-Ending Fire: the essential Wendell Berry, (2017, Penguin Press) ISBN 0-2412792-0-8


  1. ^ a b c d Wagner, Erica (30 June 2016). "The constant gardener". New Statesman. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Daniel Smith (20 April 2014). "It's the End of the World as We Know It and He Feels Fine". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Paul Kingsnorth's official website
  4. ^ "Paul Kingsnorth author biography". Simon & Schuster.
  5. ^ Aris Roussinos (August 2019). "Sailing into a low-tech future". unHerd. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Free West Papua Campaign".
  7. ^ "About Paul Kingsnorth". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  8. ^ "Writer Paul Kingsnorth was baptized in the Romanian Orthodox Church". Orthodox Times. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  9. ^ "The Cross and the Machine". First Things. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  10. ^ Smith, Daniel (17 April 2014). "It's the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Poetry Competition Winners 2012". 2012. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  12. ^ The Wake. Unbound. 2014. ISBN 978-1-908717-86-3.
  13. ^ Katrin Bennhold; Alexandra Alter (23 July 2014). "In First, Americans Are Nominated for Booker Prize". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Mark Rylance-backed novel wins £5,000 literary prize". BBC News. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  15. ^ Allan, Nina (25 February 2021). "Alexandria by Paul Kingsnorth review – the completion of the Buckmaster trilogy". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 March 2023.
  16. ^ Joshua Farrington (4 December 2014). "Faber signs Kingsnorth for Wake trilogy". The Bookseller.
  17. ^ Kingsnorth, Paul (2022). "The Vaccine Moment". Paul Kingsnorth. Retrieved 1 April 2022.

External links[edit]