When Quentin Blake embarked on creating a set of new drawings on fantasies of travel, even he had not envisaged a series so sombre, so haunting, as Moonlight Travellers. With characteristic sharpness, Self mingles fact and fiction to transport the reader on a radical tour of Blake’s mysterious lands on a dreamlike journey.
‘The pictures in this book are drawn on sheets of Arches fin watercolour paper with a reed pen, and Payne’s Grey watercolour. Only the colour of the moon varies from picture to picture.’
Sir Quentin Blake
You’re riding on the very tip-top of wind-tossed boughs – or standing in the crow’s nest of an ocean-going sailing ship. You sense this through the shifting currents of sleep, as they carry you, sliding over somnolent boils and into gentle eddies; sense this as a parent lofts you from the back of a car, or a pushchair, before bearing you safely to bed. Is there ever anything sweeter than this, the enfolding arms that are both impersonal and unimpeachably intimate? And then the descent, in a fall that’s at once free and utterly secure – a fall that ends happily … drowsily … in the fast-warming safety-swaddle of the covers. You lift your face for a last look at the world, and there, scudding behind a cloudy tracery, you see her, the goddess Selene, staring down at you with serenely loving indifference.
Over the years, every night-time journey you’ve taken has, in some way, conformed to this piercingly nostalgic paradigm: cars, buses, trains, boats and aeroplanes – all, at some point in the transit, would seem to be moving with the steady gait of a careful parent. But then, at other times, it felt as if all that supported you was some strange contraption. Perhaps you were like me as a child, trying to build go-carts out of old pram wheels, or to cobble together from hangers and black plastic bags kites capable of lifting you aloft, or to blast off for the moon in cardboard-tube rockets fuelled by 3-IN-ONE Oil. It was when I imagined myself balanced upon – or dangling below – such vehicles that I rumbled and swooped and shot precipitately, my parabola kissing the tips of those wind-tossed boughs. Did you, I wonder, kiss them with me?