Published here for the very first time, 'Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping' is Derek Jarman’s only piece of narrative fiction. Written in 1971, it is a surreal, fabular, lyrical work – a literary fairytale acid-trip road movie hybrid – the energies and details of which influenced much of his later work across media. The richly poetic story, a cinematic prose quest, tracks the journey of a blind young King and his valet, disguised as beggars, who set out in no particular direction and with no particular purpose. Departing from Fargo, across the frontier of Movietown, along the Superhighway and picnicking on the Lawns of Paradise, they encounter vivid characters like Pierrot, Borgia Ginz and Topaz, an Emperor who ‘smiles with the art of mirrors’, as well as a Sphinx with ‘Silence is Golden’ written in her eyes.
The story serves as a foundational text, laying out many of the themes, images and styling of Jarman’s work in painting, film and design whilst also being haunted by the then emerging ecological crisis in its juxtaposition of the beauty of nature with the reckless consumption of modernity. This edition features facsimile images of the story’s handwritten drafts from Jarman’s archive, a link to an exclusive audio recording of Jarman himself reading the story in full, and is comprehensively informed by a vivid foreword from Philip Hoare, a deeply researched afterword by Jarman scholar Declan Wiffen, and a warm memoir by the artist Michael Ginsborg, a close friend of Jarman’s throughout the period of the story’s writing.